Spotlight / Buffalo Jazz Collective
The Mark Filsinger Eleventet
Photo courtesy of Mark Filsinger
It’s long been recognized that Buffalo has nurtured some of the legendary stars of the jazz world. Elvin Shepherd, Sam Noto, Grover Washington Jr., C. Q. Price, Don Menza, Mel Lewis, Louie Marino, Sabu Adeyola, Bobby Militello, and other native sons have gone on to national acclaim and many of them have returned to enrich the local scene. Other eminent players—including Al Tinney and George Caldwell—have arrived from elsewhere to share their experience and musical passion with students and professionals alike. Now, trumpet player, composer, and teacher Mark Filsinger, a Western New Yorker who has been inspired by the example of jazz organizations in other cities, has created the Buffalo Jazz Collective.
“I thought about organizing a jazz collective for a long time,” says Filsinger, who holds a PhD in music education and a master’s in jazz studies from Eastman School of Music and is currently an assistant professor of music at Buffalo State. “One thing that I noticed early on was that we don’t have a Buffalo jazz orchestra, and there was no jazz community school that was really strong. When I was in Rochester and Philadelphia, there were lots of jazz opportunities for students. I thought it would be great if there were a concert series, and students could also meet and play with professional musicians. I’m hoping it could turn into something like Jazz at Lincoln Center—a jazz organization that has all different components: a concert series, master classes, and a Buffalo jazz orchestra. We don’t really have a resident big band. The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra is a big band that functions like a symphony orchestra and has a concert series, individual concerts, and school clinics. About ten years ago, Syracuse formed the Central New York Jazz Orchestra and created a not-for-profit foundation, which now presents a concert series, a scholastic program, and a summer festival. Of course we are fortunate to have the Colored Musicians Club and there are lots of bands in town, but the Buffalo Jazz Collective will be a premier not-for-profit organization.”
To that end, Filsinger has enlisted a board of directors comprising him, another jazz musician (who is also a successful businessman), a New York City-based CPA, a Sabres VP, and a high-powered hedge fund trader. In addition, he has recruited three other prominent local musicians to serve as coartistic directors: pianist George Caldwell, saxophonist Bobby Militello, and trombonist and educator John Hasselback Jr.
The Buffalo Jazz Collective launched its first concert series in October with a concert by the Buffalo Jazztet and followed that with a performance by Buffalo saxophone legend Don Menza in November. The BJC concerts are held on the second Sunday of each month at the Buffalo History Museum on Middlesex Road. This month, on December 11, the BJC presents the Bobby Militello Quartet featuring the songs of Dave Brubeck. Upcoming in 2017: pianist Pete Malinverni, trumpeter Freddie Hendrix, and bebop legend Sam Noto.
Filsinger is most excited about the educational component of the Collective. Named for the father of board member Andrew Fried, this outreach program is entitled the Floyd Fried Jazz Academy. Floyd Fried was a longtime music teacher at Hutch Tech and other Buffalo schools.
On February 3–4, the BJC presents a jazz festival featuring the Floyd Fried All-City Jazz Band and spotlighting the jazz bands of Hutch Tech, City Honors, South Park, and Performing Arts high schools. There will also be master classes in jazz for students throughout the festival weekend as well as a performance by the Mark Filsinger Eleventet. In addition, a student band will open the Pete Malinverni concert at the History Museum on February 12. “The festival will be the first step in having an ongoing partnership with the Buffalo Public Schools and running education programs that last all year long,” says Filsinger. “I recently met with all the participating music teachers and we’ve organized it and are ready to kick off the first student performances in February.”
Another gig this month under the aegis of the Buffalo Jazz Collective is a performance of the Eleventet at Nietzsche’s on December 1. It’s also jazz month at Pausa Art House (see below). Find out more about the Buffalo Jazz Collective at buffalojazzcollective.com.
Jazz month at Pausa
Dec. 2: Miles Davis Project
Dec. 3: pianist Trigger Gaston’s Red Garland Tribute
Dec. 8: Rick Holland’s Little Big Band featuring Lindsey Holland
Dec. 9: Grüvology
Dec. 10: Greg Millar Quartet
Dec. 15: Mari McNeil Quintet with A Magical Night of Ella
Dec. 16–17: Cuban band featuring Lazara Nelson on violin/CD release concert
Dec. 22: Bobby Militello Quartet
Dec. 23: Nelson Starr and the Franciscans with their interpretations of the music of Frank Sinatra
For more details and any last-minute changes, visit pausaarthouse.com.
Phil Nyhuis contributes frequently to Spree.