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Nathan Davis duet will have premiere at New York's Carnegie Hall

Dr. Nathan Davis with Cecile and Eric Springer at the dinner party for the premiere of the Jazzopera Just Above my Head at the Duquesne Club. Tribune-Review file

Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

Saxophonist and educator Nathan Davis has written a cello-piano duet that will be premiered Friday at the Weill Recital Hall in New York City's Carnegie Hall.

“The older I get, the easier this writing thing gets,” says Davis, director of jazz studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

Davis was commissioned to write the piece by cellist Misha Quint, founder of the InterHarmony International Music Festival, which allows students to study music in the United States and abroad to broaden their cultural knowledge.

The work is called “Matryoshka Blues,” referring to the Russian dolls that are embedded within one another.

The work is mostly written in the serious concert vein, Davis says, but has stylistic influences from jazz stars such as Joe Henderson and John Coltrane.

“You know me,” he says. “There is going to be some jazz in there.”

Davis says his work with Russian emigre Quint goes back to 2004, when Davis' opera, “Just Above My Head,” was performed in Pittsburgh.

Quint was in the audience and liked the opera so much, he asked Davis to write something for him. The saxophonist wrote a concerto for strings and then a piece for piano, cello and orchestra, but they never were able to arrange performances of them.

Finally, they decided to work on a smaller piece that would be simpler to perform.

Davis says David Baker, the well-known jazz educator from the University of Indiana at Bloomington, gave him a cello so he could get a better understanding of the instrument.

But, he says Quint did express some surprise at some of Davis' writing for the instrument. Davis says he used in those talks some of the thinking Baker had expressed when he wrote a piece for Menahem Pressler and the Beaux Arts Trio.

“David told him, ‘Of course you can play this stuff. You guys told me you were the baddest cats in the world,” he says.

Music will begin 8 p.m. Admission is $35. Details: 212-247-7800 or www.carnegiehall.org.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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