"Keep up the great work at the NYJAZZ Initiative!"
- President Bill Clinton, 2009
"What Rob and NYJAZZ is doing is monumental. What better way for budding high school jazz musicians to experience the music than in NYC, the vortex of the jazz world. With top flight player/educators in an intense classroom setting addressing the students needs, culminating with a concert to a standing room audience at a premiere jazz club with a legendary figure as a guest artist, it doesn't get any better. Not only is it a win, win for the students, but jazz fans as well who get to hear these young talents. I was proud to have been asked by Rob to participate in this innovative concept."
- Bobby Sanabria, 2010
In summary of my week spent in New York: cacophony turned to epiphany under the hands of the great artists in the NYJAZZ Initiative. To be able to work closely with such great names as Bobby Sanabria and Candido - men who are not only awe-inspiring but, in Candido's case, NEA Jazz Masters - was an experience in and of itself. I can honestly say I learned more in one sectional with Bobby than I have during weeks of sitting in school. We spent the three days prior to our performance rigorously rehearsing our charts in a small rehearsal room with Manhattan right outside the window. I felt like I could have been in a dream, and am still trying to convince myself otherwise. Mainly what I took away from those rehearsals was the joy of being a musician.
The enthusiasm of Rob Derke and Bobby Sanabria was contagious. Their love of the music inspired me and lit a fire beneath me to play better and achieve more. I was taught to take time and leave space for musical conversations. To find the beauty in silence, and to be relentless in concentration. I will take these things with me throughout the rest of my musical education. I know I speak for the entire band as well as myself in saying: Thank you for all the memories, experiences, teachings, and a trip that will never be forgotten.
-Zoe Jorgenson (senior; bass) Participant in "Big Bands in the Big Apple" 2010
“The artist residency through NYJAZZ Initiative has been an incredibly valuable experience for both me and my students. I have enjoyed the chance to observe master musicians and educators such as Cecil Bridgewater work with my students, and I have adopted many of their approaches to teaching and inspiring students about jazz. This experience has allowed me to become a better teacher and recruiter for our program.
I have also seen tremendous growth in many of my students since beginning the residencies. Some have now been encouraged to study music in college, while others have simply been inspired to apply more energy and discipline to their instruments. All of the students have learned how to play this music with more confidence and expertise.
I am sure that many of the effects on students brought about by the NYJAZZ residencies will manifest themselves after they leave high school and embark on other pursuits. I am confident that most of my students will be lifelong jazz fans. Still, the immediate and significant impact this program has had on my students and my program means that I will be inviting them back year after year.”
Geoffrey Taylor, Director of Jazz Studies
Herricks School District, New Hyde Park, NY
My experience with the NYJAZZ Initiative program was not only amazing, but a great learning experience. On the very first day of rehearsal we had already got down to business and were playing our music for Bobby Sanabria. By the second day, we were well toward becoming a much better band thanks to Bobby and Rob. During the sectional the rhythm section had time to work on our parts with Bobby one on one. This was a great experience because of his knowledge and background of the music. Not only this, but Bobby was very knowledgeable of the history of the music and the musicians of that time. Above all my favorite and most memorable time with the program was the Improv class with Rob as he emphasized "having a conversation". Along with this he gave us many helpful ideas and words of wisdom. I would highly recommend this program and all that it has to offer.
-Jeran Hillstead (sophomore; piano) Participant in "Big Bands in the Big Apple" 2010
“Participating in the NYJAZZ “Big Bands in the Big Apple” Program in 2008 was an amazing opportunity and honor for our students.
The program included rehearsals and clinics for six hours or more per day with Jon Faddis, Kenny Washington, Dave Liebman, and Ralph Lalama; and even included a surprise visit by the legendary James Moody. This program supports serious jazz students as they combine study with professional-level performing experience!”
-Dr. Ken Foerch, Vanguard University, CA
“As a lucky participant in the NYJAZZ Initiative Residency Program, I have witnessed the skill level of our High School Jazz Ensemble increase greatly. NYJAZZ encourages students to fully embrace and explore their music in a truly personal and unique manner.
“By dividing the band into smaller groups a more personal atmosphere is achieved, allowing students to express themselves and learn about Jazz in a completely new way. The NYJAZZ Initiative works hard to provide a connection between our students and the professional world of Jazz.”
-Liz C., First Alto, Senior
Wheatley High School Jazz Ensemble, Old Westbury, NY
My experience with the NYJAZZ Initiative program was outstanding. From the beginning I knew it was going to be amazing. The first day we all started warming up in the rehearsal room until Bobby Sanabria arrived. Instantly he kicked off a tune and went to work. He cut us off and started working with the rhythm section. I looked at the other trumpet players next to me and we just grinned because we knew this was the "real deal". The sectionals were great. Sam and Richie didn't just rehearse the charts, but had a masterclass approach. From this, we gained a massive amount of information. The history/masterclasses clarified Afro-Cuban Jazz's creation and what it lead to. I was just trying to absorb everything I could."
-Kyle Overlay (senior; trumpet) Participant in "Big Bands in the Big Apple" 2010
The NYJAZZ Initiative, with Rob Derke's leadership, is focused on these very common sense understandings. Rob has organized a team of highly developed, sensitive, creative and determined artists. These contributors embody the kinds of essential qualities required for the aforementioned forward movement the music needs, not just to survive, but to have a brilliant future. Perhaps, Hockey player Wayne Gretzky framed it accurately, when he commented that he keeps his eye on where the puck is going not where it has been.
In the late 1960s, I began listening to jazz and became electrified and magnetized by its spontaneity and freshness. More new music was being created and performed then, than there were tribute albums being made. The jazz business - as opposed to the music itself - is now plagued by what feels like an overwhelming ratio of tribute concerts and albums being made to artists past (and even present) --- artists or music that has demonstrated commercial value and sales numbers. This has jeopardized the courage and commitment to support and promote new music - and in turn a future. Jazz by its very nature has its natural attractor built-in -- by virtue of the creativity, technique and long-term development and commitment required to make this music. So, if there is to be a future for jazz, it has to comprise an amalgam of promotion and marketing, educating and developing new audiences and creating the same kinds of energy, purity of purpose that exploded out of the music and attracted me from the moment I first heard it. The NYJAZZ Initiative is currently committed to and actively pursuing these activities and initiatives, and support for this kind of organization is well placed."
Eric Nemeyer, Publisher --- Jazz Inside Magazine | Jazz Inside NY, Groove News
"The direction that jazz most needs to follow is the one that points forward. With roots planted firmly in the past, a knowledge of history, a reverence for wisdom that is passed down, and relevant experience, those who will contribute to and secure the growth and future of this artform will be those with an eye on, and compass pointing toward the future.
“Performing with the Mad About Thad Program with NYJAZZ after being heavily involved with the music of Thad Jones for many years is a truly refreshing experience. While still honoring and staying true to Thad’s music, creativity and intent, the musicians and arrangements are ‘decomposing’ and ‘recomposing’ this music to explore new avenues in Jazz.” - Ralph Lalama
Press for "MAD ABOUT THAD":
"Thad Jones had a sound that is timeles. On his horn and through his music his ideas were profound and personal, and it is evident that his impact and inspiration are strong and clear on 'Mad About Thad'. The NYJAZZ Ensemble plays with perfection, as the new orchestrations by Rob Derke of some of Thad's most beautiful compositions are full of wonderful solos by some of today’s most expressive musicians on the NY scene , especially Ralph Lalama and Rob Derke on tenors and Steve Wilson on alto.
"In my career I've had the great opportunity to learn and explore Thad's music as a part of the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra (1980 - 1991 ), The Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, and most recently with Hank Jones ( 2000 - 2010 ), the elder of the three distinguished and legendary brothers. Hank and Elvin loved to play Thad's tunes, and both thought he was a genius of modern music with his self taught approach in composition and orchestration.The smiles on their faces were infectious when playing or listening to Thad’s tunes, just as it is on mine while digging this recording. I'm 'Mad About Thad' as well."
- Joe Lovano, October 2010
"The band manages to be faithful to Thad Jones' vision, while remaining creative with the arrangements. The pas de deux between Rob Derke's soprano saxophone and Sam Burtis' tuba brings out the best in "Bird Song" and the horn writing on "Elusive" makes this band sound far bigger than they actually are. Six other tracks reside between those two pieces, and each one offers great musical riches."
- Dan Bilawsky, All About Jazz, 2011
"One of the things that marked much of the Jones oeuvre was an impish sense of humor, and that comes through in these arrangements by Derke, Justin Flynn and Toby Wine. There is wonderful ensemble playing, but the solos are what make this album special. These are all wonderfully imaginative players, and they are given ample space to stretch out. Listening to the music of Thad Jones is always a treat, and Mad About Thad is a feast of fun for those who love _ne jazz writing played with gusto by creative musicians."
- Joe Lang, Jersey Jazz, 2011
"CD discovery of the week: Thad Jones' music is always more complicated than you expect—and much more melodic. All of this is brilliantly handled by the NYJAZZ Initiative on their new CD, Mad About Thad. Case in point is Bird Song, arranged by Rob Derke. Or Lady Luck, charted by Justin Flynn. All of the album's compositions by Jones are arranged with the master in mind, and the results are quite something."
- Marc Myers, JazzWax, 2011
"A great job of capturing Thad’s spirit. A smart crew of players that know the ropes pull this together in fine fashion. A living, breathing set that really cooks. Hot stuff."
- Chris Spector, Midwest Record, 2011
“NYJAZZ plays with perfection…some of today’s most expressive musicians on the NY scene, especially Rob Derke and Ralph Lalama on tenors.”
- Joe Lovano
“Each tune offers great musical riches...spectacular solos...finest musicians on the NY scene.” - All About Jazz
"A winner...wonderful." - SaxShed “Brilliantly handled…the results are quite something.” - Marc Myers, JazzWax
”Fabulous...exciting...a timeless sound.” - Birminham Times “A living, breathing set that really cooks.“ - Chris Spector, Midwest Record
“The solos are what make this album special. These are all wonderfully imaginative players.” - Joe Lang, Jersey Jazz
“NYJAZZ embodies the kinds of essential qualities required for the forward movement this music needs,
not just to survive, but to have a brilliant future.”
- Eric Nemeyer, Publisher, Jazz Inside Magazine
our newest release... "Mad About Thad"
with the NYJAZZ Septet. Click the cover to find out more about the ensemble!