Evan Christopher will debut his new work “The Faubourg Variations” at the New Orleans Jazz Museum on Sunday, December 9 at 2 p.m. The performance has been made possible with support from Chamber Music America’s 2018 New Jazz Works program funded through the generosity of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
Did you propose this piece for the commission or did you write it after you were selected?
For CMA’s New Jazz Works grant, a blind panel listens to composition and performance samples. Proposals can favor conceptual, academic projects, so this current process encourages more diversity among grantees. Upon the award’s announcement, I tailored my vision to the grant’s ‘extended life’ phase and created ‘The Faubourg Variations’ with the trajectory of an album-length recording.
What is the theme of “The Faubourg Variations”?
The overall theme is New Orleans, naturally! The composition’s main theme, however, is a slightly modern nineteenth century–style hymn. Several variations celebrate the neighborhoods, traditions, grooves and style-specific language of the New Orleans idiom.
You have used different Clarinet Road bands, but this quartet is special. They seem just right for the project. What role do the special guests play?
For performances of my own music, yes, I frequently call upon David Torkanowsky, Roland Guerin and Brian Seeger, whom I featured on my last recording. The CMA grant doesn’t distinguish guests from core ensemble members, I did that. Herlin Riley is a ‘guest’ because the honor of his participation feels immense, and I don’t work with him regularly. NYC-based Jon-Erik Kellso is a ‘guest’ because his appearances in New Orleans are special. These five musicians were chosen because they are all incredible, individual stylists who approach New Orleans music with respect and clarity.
It’s an honor to be the first New Orleans–based recipient of this award.
It’s indeed an honor. Creating this showcase for these musicians who have helped me form my musical identity is also intended to express gratitude to the larger cultural community. Hopefully, other cats will say, ‘THAT guy got a grant?? S***! I’m applying next time!’
How does the project relate to the focus of your ongoing exploration of the New Orleans music tradition?
New music feels like a logical next step towards finding a contemporary way to frame the New Orleans clarinet style, but in nearly 25 years of being based here, I’ve yet to produce a proper recording in New Orleans and only started performing my own music in 2008, when I returned after the 2005 federal levee failures. Also, an award from an organization that champions ‘chamber music’ suits my preference for more intimate, acoustic performances of New Orleans music.