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The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band gives standards a modern twist at the Modlin Center. 

Monday Night Music

For the past thirtysomething years, Monday nights have been big-band nights in New York. When the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band plays the University of Richmond's Modlin Center on Monday, Oct. 9, it will not only be one of the rare occasions for Richmond audiences to see a large all-star ensemble, but also a chance to participate in a weekly tradition.

Monday is the slow night of the week, the night when musicians who usually make their living in smaller, more economic ensembles can get together with their peers and play for the love of the music. Trumpeter Jon Faddis, the leader of the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, early in his career was a notable member of the archetypal Monday night unit — the Mel Lewis band — that played weekly at the equally archetypal jazz venue, The Village Vanguard. He also played with the great large-group arrangers Gil Evans, Chuck Mangione, Charles Mingus, and perhaps most importantly, Dizzy Gillespie.

To be fair, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band is not a Monday-night ensemble, but a collection of first-rank players based in New York's classic performing venue. Formed in 1992, they play an annual subscription series of four concerts at Carnegie Hall, in addition to festivals, international appearances and domestic tours like the one that brings them to Richmond.

The Modlin Center program will include works by Johnny Mercer, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Howard Arlen, Cole Porter and Leonard Bernstein. Speaking from the Newark airport, where he was waiting out a weather delay on his way to a Florida university workshop, Faddis says his group does not approach the classic material in their repertoire as museum pieces.

"We play those same classic songs with modern arrangements from some of the best current arrangers including Jim McNeely, Frank Foster, Jimmy Heath, Slide Hampton, Michael Abone and Michael Philip Boston," he says. The musician's solos will be improvised.

The commitment to continuing invention may not please diehard repertory fans for whom the definitive performances have already been established. "Some people come expecting to hear Buck Clayton's solo on 'One O' Clock Jump' note for note," Faddis muses. "Hopefully, in our performance, people will meet some old friends and hear something new."

Faddis is an ideal choice to bridge the music's past and present. At 47 he is just old enough to have learned from the post-war giants. His wit and often dazzling virtuosity recall Dizzy Gillespie, which led to some early criticism but has proven to be a solid foundation for a more individualistic style.

Also appearing are a number of musicians who have made a mark as leaders in their own right, including trombone player Conrad Herwig, baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan and pianist Renee Rosnes.

With backing like this, what is Faddis' goal for the evening? "No train wrecks and people laugh at my jokes," he says. "Seriously, I will be happy if people understand the mission of the band — to play wonderful music and stay true to the spirit of
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