Posted: January 19, 2007
David Sanford, associate professor of music, can now add recording artist to his long list of accomplishments, which include a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Rome Prize. Sanford's big band ensemble, the Pittsburgh Collective, has just released its premier CD, Live at the Knitting Factory. The music was recorded on May 29, 2005 at the lower Manhattan nightclub, which has long been a venue for experimental jazz and rock. Sanford's CD also features internationally acclaimed cellist Matt Haimovitz.
The disc is a compilation of Sanford's own compositions, which, as he explains in his thoughtful liner notes, draw from a wide range of influences--the work of jazz masters like John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie, and the sights and sounds of Italy. Most of the players were individually miked, so the engineers "gleaned a cleaner sound than what you'd have heard in the concert," said Sanford, adding, "Although I'm always attached to low-fi recording."
As a composer who loves to create big band music, Sanford had wanted to have a big band for years. In 2003, he brought together the Pittsburgh Collective, an eclectic group of jazz, classical, Latin, and jam-based musicians who come from all across the United States and Japan. The group has a large horn section--five saxophones, five trombones, five trumpets--plus piano, electric guitar, drums, and bass. He assembled the group from musicians he had worked with, and gradually others have come by word of mouth. He was happily surprised when the famous Japanese trumpeter Hiro Noguchi agreed to join the group. "I didn't even think he'd return my phone call," Sanford said.
The Pittsburgh Collective plays together about once every year and a half, according to Sanford, "whenever I can afford to get them together. Fortunately, it's been more frequent recently." They have been extremely enthusiastic about the CD. "The enthusiasm of the players may be one of the best aspects of the band. The recording is a document of the band."
Sanford, who grew up in Pittsburgh and Colorado Springs playing trombone, developed a passion for big band music early on. "My initial exposure to big band was hearing my brother play with his junior high school jazz band. That changed my life," he said. He did his first big band arrangement at age 13, and one of his favorite pastimes was hanging out in music stores reading scores. "The people running the stores didn't like that too much," he recalled.
Sanford has been teaching at Mount Holyoke since fall 1998. He lives in Northampton with his wife, Mary Yun, an architect, and their 14-month-old daughter, Lili.