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Reno Jazz Orchestra celebrates Earth, Wind, and Fire

By ThisIsReno
Published: Last Updated on

Submitted by Chuck Reider

The Reno Jazz Orchestra’s (RJO) Artown and Sand Harbor summer concerts were to be “Earth, Wind, and Fire Now, Then, and Forever – Celebrating Earth, Wind, and Fire (EWF)” and, of course, they are postponed till next summer. 

Prior to cancellation we were well underway preparing the program; music chosen, music arrangers writing the material for the orchestra, and singers rehearsing.  Instead of waiting till next year we decided to use the prepared material during the time of social distancing.  Our first project was three EWF songs recorded virtually.  With the assistance of Steve Martin’s CPG music you can visit our YouTube channel to check them out.  Fun to watch, they are not professionally recorded as each orchestra member recorded themselves on their phones. 

So, what next? 

After several brainstorming session we thought perhaps there would be a way to record all the material professionally and my next few articles will cover that process.  We discussed this with Tanglewood Production’s owner, Michael Eardley, and have come up with a plan. 

Typically, a jazz orchestra would assemble in one large room and record the material.  This allows spontaneous interaction between soloists, rhythm section, and horn sections.  The heart of jazz.  This project will be recorded differently with each section coming to the studio to record their parts, starting with the rhythm section.  The trumpet, trombone, and saxophone sections will then take their turns recording their parts.  Our singers Lori Johnson and David Wells would be next.  Each in individual vocal booths. 

The soloists will be the icing on the cake and be the final recording step after which we will edit and mix the recordings (more on that later).  Though not conducive to spontaneous interaction this method is regularly employed for commercial music of all kinds.  In today’s world you don’t even have to be in the same recording studio.  The rhythm section tracks could be sent to any professional studio for the next layer.  Back in the day, we joked about phoning in your part and now you can! 

Let’s Groove

You ask, why record now?

First of all we want our musicians to be engaged, and if we can’t do it live we can bring them into the studio to record and be paid for their services.  The “gig economy” has taken a big hit and with the extended cancellation of concerts musicians are no exception. 

Making lemonade out of lemons, we will have a CD to offer next year during our live performances of this material.  We also plan on offering live streaming of select recording dates to our supporters for those who want to experience the recording process (again, more on that later!).  The RJO will have lost about $30,000 in concert income after expenses this year, which is a large portion of our budget. 

For those who may not be familiar with EWF here is a brief introduction.  Founded in 1969 by Maurice White, EWF brought a new spirit of hope and inspiration to troubling times through their unique blend of R&B, funk, jazz, and Latin music. 

White began his career as a session drummer for legendary Chess Records, home to great Chicago bluesmen such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.  It was there he met pianist Ramsey Lewis and joined his trio in 1966.  He decided to move to Los Angeles and asked his bassist brother, Verdine, to join him in L.A. and shop demo tapes.  It was in 1975 they got their big break when asked to record the soundtrack to a new movie “That’s the Way of the World.”  The movie bombed, but their album became a Number 1 Billboard hit.  Seven Grammy Awards, four American Music Awards, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and 90 million albums sold, 40 years later EWF continues to record and tour. 

If you are not familiar with any of these songs it is time to head to a record store (oops, not many of those left) or YouTube.  That is your homework assignment for this month, and next month I will give you an update on the project.

For more information about the RJO visit www.renojazzorchestra.org

More information about the Earth, Wind, and Fire recording project: renojazzorchestra.org/ewf

Chuck Reider

Chuck has been a professional trombonist for over 45 years. He moved to the Reno-Tahoe area in 1978 where he played his first casino gig at the Cal-Neva and performed as a showroom musician with all the great entertainers from Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. to Diana Ross and Willie Nelson. He performed with the Reno Philharmonic for over 30 years, retiring in 2018.  He is a founding member of the Reno Jazz Orchestra and has been the Music Director since 2006. Chuck also worked as an engineer at NDOT for 18 years, has been married to his wife Candy for 33 years and they have two sons, Charlie and Matt.

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