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MIM and the Phoenix Chamber Music Society Present “Passion for Bach and Coltrane” by Jeff Scott


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Featuring the Imani Winds, the Harlem Quartet, Alex Brown (piano), Zach Brown (bass), Neal Smith (percussion) and A. B. Spellman (poet)

Co-Commissioned by Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, Kansas, and the Festival of Art and Ideas, New Haven, Connecticut

“Passion” is a work for a wind quintet, string quartet, piano, double bass, percussion, and an orator. It was inspired by the poetry of A. B. Spellman, from his book of poems Things I Must Have Known. The poetry speaks to the musical mastery of J. S. Bach, John Coltrane, and Gonzalo Rubalcaba, as well as to religion and mortality.

I have long desired to set poetry to music and was particularly drawn to that of A. B. Spellman because of his strong references to both jazz and classical music as well as to the question of faith. The tradition of interpreting the Passion or musical settings of the Gospel narratives date to the fourth century. Bach wrote several, though only two have survived. Here the premise of the Passion is explored rather than the actual biblical accounts—orated poems in lieu of the intoned Gospel; Bach, Coltrane, Rubalcaba, and Spellman in lieu of the traditional biblical characters.

Although the work is original, it is anchored by this poetry with reference to two significant works by Bach and Coltrane, The Goldberg Variations and A Love Supreme, works written at the pinnacle of their maturation. “Passion” explores the influence of spirituality on the art of these masters and asks the inevitable question, what if J. S. Bach and John Coltrane met? It challenges the performer and listener to be comfortable with the seemingly polar opposites of the musical spectrum presented as equals.

[Notes by the composer Jeff Scott]

Scott’s riveting and hopeful work looks back in time into the histories of Western art music, jazz, poetry, and religious figures, even reading Coltrane’s album from end to beginning. But the work is powerfully forward looking: it draws on these past events with an eye on what is still to come, with a heart-full path for how to be in our new world.

San Francisco Classical Voice

Bach and Coltrane, separated by time, race and culture, share one thing: a profound spirituality in which all that divides is dissolved.

Kansas City Star

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