By Kenny Rampton, May 3, 2020
When it became clear that schools were going to be closing and that the newly formed Las Vegas Youth Jazz Orchestra was going to have to suspend activities after just 6 rehearsals, I spoke with Gary Cordell about how we can keep the program going. Donny Thompson had recently just created a LVYJO Group page on Facebook, so I began posting YouTube videos and audio recordings of the Big Band arrangements the kids had rehearsed as well as small group jazz recordings of the same songs. My message to the students was (and still is) “it’s about the JOURNEY, not the destination…and the journey NEVER ends”. Gary created “virtual” music folders for each student in the LVYJO so they could continue to practice their music. We were doing everything we could think of to try and keep the students engaged and were hoping that we’d be back in action soon.
One thing I really wanted to try to do was to make some kind of a recording of the LVYJO during our 1st semester, but to do that would take an incredible amount of time, energy and money, so it just didn’t seem like something we would be able to do. That is until March 24th when I received a text message from Curt Miller. Curt is someone I’ve known since I was a high school student growing up in Las Vegas. He is one of the greatest lead trombone players on the scene and has been for several decades (in fact, he used to play with my Dad) and he’s been one of the mentors for the LVYJO from the beginning. Curt is also a Master audio engineer. He did the sound for the Essentially Ellington Regional in Las Vegas this year and has his own home recording studio. In his text message on March 24th, Curt offered his time and talent to do a recording of the LVYJO so we could document the beginning of this fantastic new program. We all spoke about it, came up with a game plan and put the plan in motion!
The first song we chose was one we had rehearsed the most and the one that the kids loved to play the most…Wayne Shorter’s classic composition “Armageddon”, which Marcus Printup arranged for the recently released CD by The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, “The Music of Wayne Shorter”. Curt took the lead on this project with the help of Gary Cordell. They had the kids record onto their mobile phones, one at a time, layering one part on top of another, until it was all done. Curt Miller masterfully put everything together, along with the videos from the kids, to create this amazing recording that I hope all of these amazing young musicians will cherish for the rest of their lives.
We all hope you enjoy The Las Vegas Youth Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of Gary Cordell and their rendition of Wayne Shorter’s “Armageddon"!!!