Billy Childs and guests perform Sunday at the Phillips Center
Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 11:40 a.m.
For pianist/composer Billy Childs, naming his group the “Jazz Chamber Ensemble” and blending elements of classical and jazz in his works come as naturally as did growing up with a Bach-loving mother and a father who dug jazz.
Billy Childs Jazz Chamber Ensemble
What: Group led by pianist/composer performs with vocalist Dianne Reeves and the Ying Quartet
When: 7:30 p.m., Sunday
Where: Phillips Center, 3201 Hull Road
Tickets: $25-$50, $10 for UF students
Info: 392-2787, Ticketmaster.com
“I grew up in the '60s and '70s, and a lot of the music that was happening — in commercials, on pop stations, jazz stations and classical stations — had less distinct lines drawn between (them),” Childs says in a phone call between rehearsals in California. “So I never really recognized (the distinctions).”
On Sunday, the Billy Childs Jazz Chamber Ensemble will explore Childs' affinity for both in a concert at the Phillips Center that also features jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves and the Ying Quartet, a classical string ensemble.
As a youth growing up in Los Angeles, Childs studied piano and classical music. But he also apprenticed with jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and trombonist J.J. Johnson beginning in the late '70s.
And in a career that's now spanned four decades Childs has won three Grammys including two for Best Instrumental Composition, most recently for “The Path Among the Trees,” a song off his 2010 jazz/chamber album that also features the Ying Quartet, “Autumn: In Moving Pictures.”
On the Grammy-winning track, “The Path Among the Trees,” saxophones shimmer with the Ying Quartet's strings as naturally as the colors of red maple and black tupelo trees share the landscape of New England, which Childs points to as an inspiration for the “Autumn” album.
The same will likely be true of Sunday's performance, which begins with a set featuring Childs and the other five musicians of the Jazz Chamber Ensemble (piano, bass, drums, acoustic guitar, harp and saxophone) and the Ying Quartet.
A second set will have the 10 musicians joined by vocalist Reeves to perform a new work commissioned by Duke University, “Enlightened Souls: Commemorating 50 Years of Black Students at Duke,” which marks the 50th anniversary of the integration of Duke's undergraduate program.
Childs says he doesn't compose in either “jazz” or “classical” mode but rather lets the music go wherever it needs to go. “I don't consciously try to make the music end up in one particular genre or another one,” Childs says.
“The music just does what it needs to do when it comes up.” And the best solos in jazz, he adds, are the ones that sound as if they have a sense of logic, direction and a sense of structure to them.
“So, in a sense, both mediums have similarities, more similarities than differences. It's a question of language. For me, music is all about the drama of it, or the story you're tying to tell.”