Steve Newcomb Orchestra
Steve Newcomb is an Australian pianist, composer, arranger who is completing doctoral study at the Manhattan School of Music in composition, with Jim McNeely (Vanguard Jazz Orchestra). He is in demand for commission work as a composer, and has written for a wide array of musical artists, from Ben Folds, Ben Lee and The Panics in the pop world, to the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Sydney Symphony and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras in the classical world. His has collaborated with Australian vocalist Katie Noonan on many projects, including…
the ARIA (Australian Grammy) award winning album "First Seed Ripening", and the song cycle plus Circus project titled LOVE SONG CIRCUS, which premiered at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in 2012. His work in the field of jazz has seen him write for Stefon Harris and the Manhattan School of Music Symphony, and the world renowned Metropole Orkest (The Netherlands) and vocalist Roberta Gambarini, as well as numerous collaborations involving Jazz Orchestra and soloists. In 2012 he collaborated with Australian author Benjamin Law to create a work based around text, which was commissioned by the chamber music group Southern Cross Soloists.
On the Steve Newcomb Orchestra (SNO), Steve writes:
SNO developed out of my time studying at the Manhattan School of Music where the core trio of myself, Australian bassist Sam Anning and French drummer Guilhem Flouzat would meet regularly to workshop ideas and simply play. The Orchestra represents many of the elements I have dreamed of bringing together in the same group for quite some time. Numerous albums have long been an inspiration for the sound and instrumentation that became the group, including Wayne Shorter's Alegria, and Milton Nascimento's album Angelus, which also features Shorter, and the arranging work of Gil Goldstein. The music for this album was assembled over the period of a year, firstly for the trio and string quartet, and then added to with the aim of having three sets of four instrumental groups; four strings, four winds, and four in the rhythm section (the trio plus harp). Kavita Shah joins on voice, and at times is within the ensemble as a wordless instrument, and at other times taking a lead role, singing lyrics written on this occasion by another Australian musical connection, NY based vocalist Chris McNulty. Each performer on the record was hand picked for this project, and much of the writing for the album was written with the players in mind. The three additional guest musicians are similarly players that I really love the sound of, and felt a strong musical connection with. Jonathan Ragonese is a musician with tremendous talent and skill, and the insight and detail that he brought to the development of the ensemble sound was also integral. Laura Kahle, a long time friend from early Brisbane days is someone I had collaborated with in the making of 'Down Stream', the first recording by the West End Composers Collective. On it, Laura had written all the music and I co-produced. This time the roles were reversed and I felt very pleased to have her experience, ears and vibe present at the session in a producing role.
The debut album from SNO is 'Caterpillar Chronicles'
Although not a concept album, there is a unifying thread throughout this debut album from SNO. All original material penned by the leader and pianist Steve Newcomb, the centrepiece is the title track 'Caterpillar Chronicles', a multipart suite (with no breaks) that Steve says:
"took inspiration from my daughter, who had inquired about the life cycle of a caterpillar. My aim was to take the stages of this cycle, and for a moment pause on the middle stage where the creature is still inside a chrysalis, imagining what music would be heard by the creature as the world moved on around it. Day changes to night, human activity continues on around in varying states of motion. On a musical level, an idea of transformation or journey was aimed for in the whole piece from start to end, in instrumental colour, morphing of sound, and the addition of new sound (voice, then tabla, then trombone and guitar) as the piece progresses. The segmented nature of seemingly unrelated musical statements placed together also aims to symbolise the shape and contour of a caterpillars body, with thematic ties present throughout the piece to forge a coherent link. A caterpillar can become either a moth, or a butterfly. The story resonates for me as one of astounding transformation, renewal, and reflection".
Caterpillar Chronicles was a commission piece for Australian National University Jazz Orchestra at the request of Miroslav Bukovsky.