Buckley to Fall for a Jazzy “Rabbit Hole”
By Daniella Bassi ’14, Staff Writer
This Saturday, Feb. 26, at 8 p.m. in Buckley Recital Hall, the Amherst College Jazz Ensemble will be hosting the world premiere a piece commissioned for them and written by Ayn Inserto, a noted jazz pianist and composer who is based in Boston with her big band, the Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra. “Down a Rabbit Hole” is a dynamic work that balances harmony and dissonance, promising to engage the audience with its constant movements and changes. Inserto herself shared the source of her inspiration with The Student recently:

What inspired this commission?

I was inspired by the concept of falling down a rabbit hole like Alice did in “Alice in Wonderland”; this was the idea of going to a place that was a little different. The introduction of the piece is meant to feel like we are falling down a rabbit hole, and the section after that, when we begin the main melody, is meant to feel a little mysterious and exploratory.

How does it differ from the rest of your works?

The nuances of the piece are similar to my other pieces, as I guess I’ve established a certain style. I try to develop themes and hopefully allow them to morph naturally. I tend to write through-composed pieces and don’t feel obligated to go back to the original “head” or melody like most jazz pieces do — I’d like to think of it as telling a story. The endings tend not to be the same as the beginning, and if they are, they are portrayed in a different light and often may share similarities but in a new perspective. If I do a recapitulation, it is usually because it is the natural direction of the piece. “Down A Rabbit Hole” has a darker sound than some of my other pieces. Some of the pitch material is inspired by a four-guitar piece that I was writing at the same time called “The Humming Patriarch.” I tend to write my pieces using composition techniques I learned from the great composer and trombonist, Bob Brookmeyer.

What messages about jazz or the musical world are you trying to send through your pieces?

As far as messages through my compositions, all I want to do is write good music; pieces that are perhaps a little more unique, maybe challenging, but also accessible to the non-musician listener. I also enjoy trying to write things that hopefully musicians enjoy playing and also trying to make it accessible to musicians in terms of skill and execution. I really want everyone involved, whether it be listener, musician, conductor or composer to enjoy themselves; music, is after all, something that brings joy to a lot of people.

What instrument do you play?

I’m a pianist. I also was a percussionist with an emphasis on mallet instruments while in high school and college (I was involved with drum corps at one point.) I went to Los Medanos College and California State University, Hayward (it is now known as California State University, East Bay) for my undergraduate, and then did my Masters in Jazz Studies (Composition) at the New England Conservatory, where I studied with Brookmeyer. As a non-wind player, particularly being a pianist, I have fallen into the trap of writing brass parts that are not very friendly to them, but I have such a wonderful bunch of musicians in my band that have helped me over the years to write accessible parts. I’m still learning; I’m sure I will continue to do so for the rest of my writing life.

Ayn Inserto currently teaches at Berklee College of Music, and the Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra has recorded two albums, “Clairvoyance” (2006) and “Muse” (2009), in Boston. Her work has been commissioned not only by the Jazz Ensemble, but also by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)/ the International Association of Jazz Education (IAJE), California State University East Bay, Los Medanos College, Foxboro High School, Harvard Jazz Band, Marin Catholic High School and Fairfield High School. In addition, she has been commissioned by George Garzone to arrange his own music, which features him as a soloist along with a jazz orchestra, as well as other pieces. She has received numerous awards and honors, including the 2007 IAJE/ASCAP Emerging Composer Commission honoring Frank Foster, the 2003-04 and 2005-06 ASCAP Young Jazz Composers’ Awards and the Pacific Coast Jazz Festival Most Outstanding Small Jazz Ensemble Award. Her music has travelled across the east and west coast of the United States to parts of Italy and its next stop is here in Buckley Recital Hall this Saturday at 8 p.m.. Do not miss the world premier of a unique, complex and elaborate jazz composition.

Issue 16, Submitted 2011-02-23 04:17:45