The Birdland Big Band brings hidden gems of jazz to Hylton

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Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

In a one-night-only event at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, the Birdland Big Band, on a maiden tour outside of its New York City digs, presents "Live at Birdland," a spectacular presentation of American and global jazz music.

The band's founder and leader, drummer Tommy Igoe, talks about the early days of the group, calling it "a true American grassroots success story in every sense of the word."

Back in 2006, Igoe (a former drummer with Blood Sweat & Tears and later the associate conductor of Broadway's "The Lion King") offered to create something new for a habitually slow time slot at New York City's famed Birdland Jazz Club.

Gathering up the country's finest top-shelf talent, including musicians from every jazz/pop tour and Broadway show imaginable, he created the Birdland Big Band.

Onstage
The Birdland Big Band
Where: The Hylton Performing Arts Center, Merchant Hall, 10960 George Mason Circle, Manassas
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Info: $28 to $44; 703-993-7759; hyltoncenter.org

And so, the group decided to go out on the road periodically for a month at a time, taking with them Igoe's vast library of jazz's more obscure works.

"You're going to hear what I call a fresh take on an iconic American art form," he explained. "It's easy for musicians to reach for the well-known literature. We take a tune from the Count Basie library, a piece of music that never really got it's time in the spotlight, so we play it instead of the hits. This one is called 'The Deacon' from 1959. The people love it."

Searching for these long-lost gems is what Igoe does, the idea being that to play the music of the period is to play the undiscovered. He also includes music from Brazil, Spain and Argentina -- from all parts of the globe.

"When you tell the audience what you're playing and why you're playing it, it becomes much more of an intellectual and emotional connection," he said. "I'm all about inviting the audience in, breaking down the walls, and making no barrier between [them] and the stage."

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Author:

Marie Gullard

Special to The Washington Examiner
The Washington Examiner