musician composer bandleader educator

Biography

Darrell Katz, director of the Jazz Composers Alliance, helped to found the organization after being impressed by the success of other composers’ collective groups. Originally from Topeka, Kansas, Katz has lived in the Boston area since 1975.

“Katz has synthesized a wide range of influences including modern classical, folk/blues traditions, and the entire jazz legacy into a mature and personal compositional style which has marked him as "one of Boston's most ambitious and provocative jazz composers" (the Boston Phoenix).

“Over his career and small discography, bandleader Darrell Katz has forged an identity as a progressive and creative orchestrator of new music in a way that few can claim. Beyond the modern signatures of Gil Evans and Maria Schneider, the style of Katz is best known not only for jagged edges and vast colors of the musical spectrum as much as direct correlations to tradition.” (All Music, Michael G. Nastos)

“There's an impressive variety of textures, colors, and rhythm in all of the JCA's collaborations, but it's never attempted anything like Katz's The Death Of Simone Weil," writes the Boston Phoenix's Jon Garelick, who picked the album as one of the top 10 releases of 2003, "This work is eerie and moving, and even swinging.”

Katz appears regularly with the JCA Orchestra, the JCA Sax Quartet, and sometimes with his own groups. His most recent disc is A Wallflower In The Amazon (Accurate Records). It features vocalists Rebecca Shrimpton and Mike Finnigan (also on Hammond B3), both of whom are on The Same Thing, released in 2008, which adds baritone saxophonist/composer Fred Ho.

He also is one of six composers on 2013’s new JCA Orchestra release, Stories (Cadence).
Katz has written two improvisational cantatas for vocalist Rebecca Shrimpton and the JCA Orchestra, The Death Of Simone Weil, a setting of the narrative poem by Paula Tatarunis, and Wheelworks, to be released in 2014, is a setting of quotations of Albert Einstein. His style is eclectic: he has proven to be adept at writing for and including classical musicians at one end of the spectrum and blues singers at the other. Katz is an accomplished and detailed orchestrator, inventive with large-scale form, is highly skilled at developing lyrical and content rich melodies, and at matching music to text. Despite this devotion to notated music, he is quite willing to abandon all of it, and to unleash the creative powers of contemporary improvisers, in completely free fashion, or in various kinds of composer and/or conductor controlled improvisation. He recently said, “Nothing pleases me more then to let creative musicians loose on a pathway that I’ve been able to open for them.”

The JCA, formed in 1985, has presented such major jazz composer/performers as Julius Hemphill, Fred Ho, Dave Holland, Muhal Richard Abrams, Steve Lacy, Anthony Davis, Henry Threadgill, Maria Schneider, Tim Berne, Sam Rivers and Oliver Lake.

Katz’s music can be heard on all 9 of the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra CDs.

His music can also be heard albums by Kayle Brecher and Janet Planet.

Darrell has received, The Massachusetts Artist Fellowship in composition, three Massachusetts Artist Fellowship finalist awards, a Jazz Fellowship Grant from the NEA, and grants from Meet The Composer, The Aaron Copland Fund, The New England Foundation For The Arts, the Artists Foundation, the National Association of Jazz Educators and three Readers Digest/ Margaret Jory copying grants, as well as a Faculty Fellowship from Berklee College of Music. He’s written over 70 pieces for jazz orchestra. Jazz performances have been by ensembles including the JCA Orchestra, The Henry Threadgill Windstring Ensemble, The BMI Jazz Composers Workshop Orchestra, Orange Then Blue, Marimolin, and Either Orchestra. College big bands at MIT, BU, Harvard, NEC, Berklee, Lawrence University, Eastman, McGill University, and others have his music in their books.

Katz was the organizer of the Julius Hemphill Composition Awards (1991-2001), an even that in it’s last year, received 240 compositions, from 28 countries. Darrell has a Masters of Music Degree from the New England Conservatory, and a Bachelor of Music from Berklee College of Music, where he been a faculty member since 1989.