AfriClassical: Bloomingdale School of Music: Information about Ed Bland, whose piano music Judith Olson will perform Friday, February 18, at 7 PM

Bloomingdale School of Music

Free Faculty Concert Series

Black History Month

Dear Bill Zick,

You were so kind to post a notice about the forthcoming concert. This note contains some information about Ed Bland, the composer whose piano work Judith Olson will perform on February 18. The selections are among those on her 2019 CD, Urban Counterpoint. A Fanfare review of the album by Peter Rabinowitz is attached. Ed and Judith worked together to create interpretations that convey the spirit of improvisation even though the score is carefully prepared. It is a special joy to honor this wonderful collaboration. As you already know, registration is required and may be obtained through this link:

Ed began his musical life playing jazz clarinet with local groups in Chicago. In the mid-1950s, with friends, he created a film that depicted conflicting racial attitudes and assumptions about the significance and future of jazz music as well as its heritage. At its release in 1959, The Cry of Jazz gained no small amount of notoriety. In 2010, it entered the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. In 2019, Yale University honored the 60th anniversary of the film with a special showing. Links to a YouTube version of The Cry of Jazz and a 1989 interview about it by Chuck Kleinhaus with Bland appears below.

The Cry of Jazz YouTube Link: 3

Kleinhaus review:

Ed “sampled” a broad range of musical styles and experiences. He probed the strengths and weaknesses of western structure, form, and harmony, explored West African drumming, sampled sounds, and sought ways for musical experience to be expressed as “in the moment” His work includes acoustic compositions for orchestra, chamber music, solo instruments, and virtual percussion ensemble. He was a producer for Vanguard Records, created arrangements for jazz notables, and orchestrated works for television and film. His forays into Funk and the story of his unique musical path are represented on his website by his composer’s statement, “My Artistic Journey to Urban Classical Funk.” The site also includes information about his compositions and other recordings.

Ed Bland website:

Bland’s obituary, published by the New York Times on March 26, 2013, follows:

Ed Bland obituary:

Rabinowitz, Fanfare Review [Excerpt]

This is the first substantial representation of Bland’s music to be reviewed in Fanfare—but as the work of Black composers moves belatedly into the classical repertoire, my guess is that it won’t be the last. This is all complex and richly imaginative music—and while there’s plenty of the charm that James H. North found in his bassoon music (Fanfare 32:3), the piano music here demands serious attention. Judith Olson was a close collaborator (indeed, she helped edit much of this music), and she plays with an astonishing level of confidence and perception. I can imagine punchier readings—Olson takes a fairly relaxed approach; but she certainly draws you in. The recording is fine, the notes (an introduction by Olson, a discussion of the music using quotations from the composer put together by his wife, science-writer Mary Batten Bland) are informative. Warmly welcomed.

Leave a Comment