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Concertante for Sho and Jazz Orchestra

Susumu Watanabe, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


“Concertante for Sho and Jazz Orchestra” is a multi-movement concert piece designed to exhibit both the virtuosity of sho and its orchestral color and dynamism. There are three independent movements, each of which has multiple sections which are subdivided by the alternation of tempo, mood and musical context. The title “Concertante” simply implies a style of composition reflecting a brilliant and virtuosic display of instrumental dexterity and musicality for the solo sho part, and also the various individual instruments and instrumental sections in the 16-piece jazz orchestra. Sho is a wind instrument which is almost exclusively used for Gagaku, Japanese Imperial Court Music. Gagaku is thought to be among the oldest orchestral music in the world. The instruments of the Gagaku ensemble (including sho) were brought to Japan from China and Korea in the 5th century. Sho is a free reed instrument consisting of 17 slender bamboo pipes, each of which is fitted with a metal free reed in its base. The “Concertante” is written for solo sho and standard jazz orchestra instrumentation. Except for several segments for the rhythm section (specifically, “slash” notation for piano, bass, drums/percussion), and an improvised solo for tenor saxophone in the second movement, the score is fully notated, including the solo sho part. In addition, the solo part has both short quasi-improvised sections, and an extended cadenza. The soloist also has freedom of expression in his interpretation of the music throughout the piece, in the traditional concerto model. I had several musical objectives for the “Concertante” including: extending the musical and instrumental language for sho (particularly in regard to melodic writing); the pursuit of musical expression using the unique sonority of sho; combining the traditional Japanese instrument with Western instruments in a jazz orchestra setting; and an eclectic compositional approach that would reflect the influences of European classical music, American jazz, and Gagaku. “Concertante for Sho and Jazz Orchestra” is, I believe, the first musical endeavor of its type in history.

Subject Area

Musical composition

Recommended Citation

Watanabe, Susumu, "Concertante for Sho and Jazz Orchestra" (2020). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI27955076.