Crane School's Zvacek premieres new piece in Syracuse with jazz sax legend April 15, 16
Friday, April 8, 2011 - 9:21 am

POTSDAM -- Bret Zvacek, a professor at SUNY Potsdam's Crane School of Music, will premiere a new composition in concert with the Central New York Jazz Orchestra and legendary saxophonist David Liebman next week.

David Liebman, a jazz icon who shot to fame with Miles Davis in the 1970s and was awarded the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters Award, is making a rare Syracuse appearance on April 15 and 16.

Zvacek, the director of the Jazz Studies Program at Crane, is also music director for CNY Jazz Orchestra. He'll present the world premiere of his new work, "If a White Horse from Jerusalem," at a concert with Liebman at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 16 in Carrier Theater, 411 Montgomery St., Syracuse.

Zvacek's commission for Liebman and the CNY Jazz Orchestra is inspired by a poem by Ada Aharoni, an Egyptian-born writer living in Israel. The piece is divided into four movements, and features Liebman performing Jewish and Arabic themes on soprano saxophone. The movements are entitled "Ahava Raba," "Allahu Allahu/Maqam Awj Ara," "Ki Lo Noeh/Maqam Saba," and "Present Tense."

The work incorporates scalar, rhythmic and harmonic material from both Jewish and Arabic traditions -- historic and modern -- in order to explore and resolve them. Although the source material is derived from specific cultural backgrounds, the piece is a jazz work, drawing on modern big band traditions and the unique, Coltrane-influenced voice of the soloist.

"I am struck by the timeliness of the commission, in light of current events in North Africa and the Middle East," said Larry Luttinger, executive director of the CNY Jazz Arts Foundation. "Bret has done an amazing job of combining strands of Jewish traditions with Arab and Middle Eastern music."

Zvacek will also participate in a panel discussion on jazz and culture alongside Liebman at 3 p.m. on Friday, April 15 in Lender Auditorium of the Winnick Hillel Center for Jewish Life at 102 Walnut Place in Syracuse. That event is free and open to the public.

In addition to "If a White Horse from Jerusalem," the program for the CNY Jazz Orchestra concert featuring Liebman will also include works by Liebman, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn and others. Tickets are $19.50 to $27.50 and are available by calling the Oncenter Box Office at 435-2121.

Zvacek produced a Youtube video explaining the musical inspiration for his new work, "If a White Horse from Jerusalem." It's available here: