John D’earth pays tribute to Greg Howard ahead of the UVA Jazz Ensemble fall concert

Date: 11/17/2023

Time: 11:00 am

John D’earth will stop by WTJU Friday morning to chat about that evening’s UVA Jazz Ensemble fall concert. The concert will celebrate the musical life of Greg Howard; a world-renowned Chapman Stick player who embraced sound and whose eclectic and ecumenical musicianship made a difference locally and internationally.

On Friday, November 17th, at 8:00 PM in Old Cabell Hall, the UVA Jazz Ensemble, directed by John D’earth, will present their fall concert, In Memoriam – A Tribute to Greg Howard.

The concert will celebrate the musical life of Greg Howard; a world-renowned Chapman Stick player who embraced sound and whose eclectic and ecumenical musicianship made a difference locally and internationally. 

The Chapman Stick is a modern stringed instrument that Emmet Chapman invented less than 50 years ago. A master and leading practitioner/teacher of the touch-sensitive stick, Greg worked with Emmet Chapman for decades, wrote the basic instructional manual for the instrument and subsequent books that explored and expanded the stick’s potential. He was a leader, if not the leader, of the burgeoning international stick community. Closer to home, Greg graduated from the University of Virginia and remained affiliated with the department. He taught the stick at UVA, directed the New Music Ensemble, ran sound for departmental ensembles, and acquired a Chapman Stick for the University. He was a tireless composer and producer. His sudden death this past summer, far too soon, was a huge loss to the many musicians and listeners, worldwide, whose lives he touched.

A close friend and collaborator of Jazz Ensemble director John D’earth, Howard produced several albums for D’earth and his long-time musical partner and wife, vocalist Dawn Thompson. Code Magenta, a trio consisting of Thompson, Howard, and the late, truly great, tenor saxophonist, LeRoi Moore, created legendary music and an iconic CD. 

“Greg’s loss is deeply personal to those of us who knew him well,” said D’earth, “and his loss was felt worldwide, not only because of his standing as a stick player but because of his passionate, prolific work as a composer and producer. He produced several of our recordings, did sound for gigs, and performed with me in a variety of contexts over many years. Greg personified a loving generosity and a penetrating devotion to detail and high standards that cannot be over-stated; nor can the depth of gratitude felt by those of us who were fortunate enough to have worked with him.”

Central to the concert will be a trio of Greg Howard compositions that D’earth arranged many years ago for Howard’s 2012 guest artist appearance with the UVA Jazz Ensemble: Still Water, The Offering, and Dissent. These three pieces constitute a kind of three-movement Greg Howard symphony for jazz ensemble. 

Integral to this memorial performance of Howard’s music will be violinist David Sariti. Sariti is principle second violin in the Charlottesville and University Orchestra and a professor of violin at UVA where he is also the Director of Performance. He is an improvising classical musician who is a longtime collaborator of both Greg Howard and John D’earth.

D’earth reflected, “David Sariti is a modern, creative musician. He’s a fully accomplished practitioner of classical music and an improviser, as well… someone who embraces and engages musical language creatively, in the manner of a jazz or rock musician, or an Indian classical musician, for that matter. One of his specialties is Baroque improvisation. Having David in the concert is special. He played for many years on various projects with Greg. And he is my go-to liaison with the orchestra, always willing to advise me when I’ve written jazz-inflected music for the strings.”

Greg was a presence in the Charlottesville jazz scene and a key supporter of the UVA jazz program, so the concert will also feature a cross-section of classic big band jazz. Early iterations such as Count Basie’s Every Tub, and the later Whirlybirds, will share the program with Pat Metheny’s See the World, and modern arrangements of Duke Ellington’s Cottontail and the well known standard, Mean to Me. 

“We love the classics,” says D’earth, “but we aspire to the creativity embodied in the music. In the UVA Jazz Ensemble we embrace, as did Greg Howard, the imaginative possibilities of creative music making.”

The UVA Jazz Ensemble comprises undergraduates, graduate students, and community members. They offer two concerts per academic year and present numerous guest artists from our area, and from the national and international jazz scene.  

Tickets can be purchased at the UVA Arts Box Office, on-line, by phone (434) 924-3376 or in person at the door on the night of the concert.  

Old Cabell Hall is located on the south end of UVA’s historic lawn, directly opposite the Rotunda. (map) Parking is available in the central grounds parking garage on Emmet Street, in the C1 parking lot off McCormick Rd, and in the parking lots at the UVA Corner. Handicap parking is available in the small parking lot adjacent to Bryan Hall.

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