Sunday, October 17, 2004

DeGreg scales up to symphony



By Janelle Gelfand
Enquirer staff writer

George Gershwin brought jazz into the concert hall with his "Rhapsody in Blue," a "jazz concerto" commissioned by bandleader Paul Whiteman in 1924.

On Wednesday, Cincinnati jazz pianist Phil DeGreg, a regular at the Blue Wisp, will come into the concert hall for his first performance of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

IF YOU GO
What: CCM Wind Symphony, Rodney Winther, conductor; Phil DeGreg, piano
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Corbett Auditorium, University of Cincinnati
Admission: Free. 556-4183 or www.ccm.uc.edu
DeGreg, professor of jazz studies at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, spoke about his debut with the CCM Wind Symphony, under the baton of Rodney Winther.

Question: How is this concert different from playing in your usual trio?

Answer: It's real challenging for me. I mean, being a jazz improviser is a completely different mind-set. I think what (Winther) was thinking was that I'd bring a different interpretation to it. There are internal syncopations in the music that I just hear in a particular way.

Q: Do you memorize easily?

A: If I'm doing a jazz piano trio or an arrangement with a group, I try to have everything memorized. I have to say that this music is so logical, that memorization isn't the most difficult part of it.

Q: What about "Rhapsody in Blue" do you love?

A: I love the harmony. And I just like the logic of it, and the melodies too. It's got great melodies. I've played some Claude Bolling pieces, and they're OK. But there's a certain thing about Gershwin that's a lot deeper.

Q: Are you classically trained?

A: I did take lessons when I was a kid, but I didn't have a conservatory education. When I was in college (Yale University) I majored in psychology. (Later) I moved to Kansas City, and studied classical piano and jazz piano simultaneously and began to work locally.

Q: Whom do you admire among past jazz pianists?

A: Bud Powell. People told me when I first began to play jazz in a serious way that my playing reminded them of Bill Evans.

Q: What's your latest recording project?

A: I have a brand new recording (I made) in Brazil with a bunch of Brazilian jazz musicians. There are several (Antonio Carlos) Jobim tunes. I've got a couple of original tunes on it, and there are jazz standards that the Brazilian guys wanted to record.

E-mail jgelfand@enquirer.com




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