Metta Quintet celebrates jazz music

The New York-based Metta Quintet will explore new artistic territory in a one-night show in Orange County on Jan. 27 celebrating the globalization of jazz music.

In "JazzReach: Big Drum/Small World" at the Irvine Barclay Theatre, the quintet will perform a multimedia concert paying tribute to the lives and music of eight commissioned jazz composers from around the world.

Also included in the lineup is original music from members of the ensemble: Tim Green (alto saxophone), Wayne Escoffery (tenor saxophone), Lawrence Fields (piano), Joshua Ginsburg (bass), and Hans Schuman (drums).

In addition to the evening concert, the Metta Quintet will carry out two JazzReach activities intended to expose young people to jazz music. On the morning of Jan. 27, the Quintet will perform a free multimedia concert for an invited group of 700 elementary students from the Irvine Unified School District, followed by a jazz clinic at one of IUSD's middle schools.

"In arts education, we function similarly to nutritionists who are trying to correct the eating habits of young people," Hans Shuman, executive director of JazzReach, said in a phone interview. "We want to make sure people are culturally and intellectually nourished as well."

The Big Drum/ Small World concept will provide the foundation for both programs, one targeted for young people in the day and another for general audiences that night. Also, a corresponding album titled "Big Drum/ Small World" will be released on Feb. 21.

"Big Drum/Small World came about as a means to promote the globalization of jazz" said Shuman, who founded the Metta Quintet.

"Living in New York, which has always been considered the jazz corner of the world, we're sort of at the epicenter of what's happening in the music," he said. "Over the last 10 years or so, with globalization, the music has evolved in that way, too. The music has always vividly reflected our national character. The fact that jazz has become globalized only makes sense because it is a reflection of the greater culture at large."

In response to the rising tide of globalization, Metta Quintet founder Hans Shuman commissioned music from artists residing from places as diverse as West Africa, Israel, Cuba, Puerto Rico, India and the United States.

"There were artists from all over the world who were not only mastering the language of the American jazz tradition, but bringing elements of their own cultural heritage and their own artistic sensibilities into the music," Shuman said.

During the selection process, Shuman chose each composer based on their outstanding music and ability to translate it into an educational setting. The following make up five of the eight featured composers: alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon from Puerto Rico; alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa of Indian heritage; bassist Omer Avital from Israel; guitarist Lionel Loueke from Benin; and then Yosvany Terry, a Cuban who plays saxophone and chekeré.

"For Big Drum/Small World, in particular, what we did is interview all of the composers that we commissioned and extracted information about their background, their lives, music, artistic visions, their thoughts on jazz, the current state of jazz, and where the art form is," Shuman said. "So rather than me on a microphone saying this next song is by a gentleman from Puerto Rico, we actually get to meet him and hear what he has to say. So we get to hear his perspective first hand. I think it just gives some depth and dimension to the experience the audience has."

During the performance, every interview segment will be followed by music from each respective composer. Also, an integration of video, lighting, sound design, and live performance will create an innovative jazz concert setting.

"One of the things that was really important to me, whether it's educational or otherwise, is that what we play is somewhat accessible," Shuman said. "The aficionado appreciates it, but hopefully it resonates with someone who's maybe coming to a jazz performance for the first time, the uninitiated so to speak."

HEATHER YOUMANS writes about arts events for the Daily Pilot.

If You Go

What: "JazzReach: Big Drum/Small World"

When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 27

Where: Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine

Tickets: $17; or $12 for each ticket in packages of four or more

For tickets: go to or call (949) 854-4646

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