Barta’s new arrangement of Jazz masterpiece
Elevates, Expands on a Classic
Colorado Springs Jazz pianist, composer, arranger, author and educator Steve Barta thrives on collaboration. During his 30 year career, he’s had the opportunity not only to perform as a solo artist, but to join forces with jazz and Latin legends like Hubert Laws, Herbie Mann, Dori Caymmi, Al Jarreau, Paulinho da Costa and many more.
With 15 recordings already to his credit, including Grammy-nominated “JumpinJazz Kids – A Swinging Jungle Tale,” he’s teamed with the best, written the piano educator’s go-to book, “The Source,” and this summer, debuted a new arrangement of a modern Jazz classic – Claude Bolling’s “Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio” – a masterpiece first released in 1975.
“Claude’s work actually led to coining the term, “Crossover” in music,” he says, adding that “Suite” enjoyed a 530-week ride on the Billboard charts as well as a Grammy nomination when it debuted. Newly arranged and recorded with string quartet, jazz quartet and orchestra, this iconic piece is now titled, “Symphonic Arrangement: Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio.”
The project had come with inherent risk: Why re-arrange a legendary jazz classic – the first real synthesis of classical music and jazz improvisation? Prior to beginning work Barta asked for and received Bolling’s blessing. For co-producer and arranger Barta, that challenge turned out to be both an honor and an energizing challenge.
In the process of assembling just the right musical chemistry Barta, who is a recognized and versatile Brazilian Jazz piano soloist, composer, arranger and recording artist – actually opted to hire another pianist to round out his quartet.
“I had to take my ego out. Arranging is just as fulfilling for me, and Jeff Biegel is a talented prodigy. He’s not only a brilliant classical artist, but he also likes to take musical risks. He was best-suited,” he points out, noting that legendary Master flutist Hubert Laws, Bassist Mike Valerio and Brazilian drummer and co-producer Michael Shapiro shared his innovative and collaborative vision.
“Musically, personally and professionally, it was simply the best quartet one could dream of having,” Barta says.
The July 2015 release has earned early praise, including “a thousand bravos” from Bolling who calls the composition a “true and modern arrangement.” In addition, music reviewers herald the masterfully woven string quartet, jazz quartet and orchestra recording.
“Steve Barta‘s rethinking of Bolling’s Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio is an important event in music and one that is long overdue,” wrote reviewer C. Michael Bailey for AllAboutJazz.com. Seems all the risk-taking has paid off.
But a recording’s success is not the only way Barta measures his performance.
“Musical integrity is extremely important to me,” says the self-taught Pikes Peak region jazz artist, noting that he hopes his work reflects what he’s learned from talents like Tony Bennett and Al Jarreau. Both jazz icons, he points out, have opted to be very careful about what they’ll record and have resisted the “pop moment” that doesn’t last.
“Most of the artists on my sessions don’t need the money. They like what I’m doing and like being involved with projects that hold a high degree of integrity.”
Inspired by jazz greats like the late Dave Brubeck who, at almost 80 years of age, was working on a new score to accompany an Ansel Adams photography exhibit, Barta believes the high point of his career is yet to come.
“Music is an ageless field. I’ve always chosen to believe my best work is ahead of me.”