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Jazz it up with Jim Shearer at two CD-release concerts

Tuba player Jim Shearer on a Zoom call
Leora Zeitlin
Tuba player Jim Shearer on a Zoom call

When Claude Bolling wrote his “Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio” in 1973, he couldn’t have known that the work would be a runaway hit and would retain its popularity for at least half a century. NMSU Regents Professor Jim Shearer had long considered recording it on tuba – a task not to be taken likely – and approached his UTEP colleague, jazz pianist and composer Chris Reyman. Reyman agreed to record the Bolling piece on one condition: that he could write a companion piece in seven movements for the album.

“I was real cool and said, ‘well, yeah, if you really want to do that,” Shearer told Intermezzo host Leora Zeitlin in this interview. “And I’m thinking, “Oh my God, are you kidding? Of course I want to do that – that’s fantastic!” Reyman went on to write the piece, wryly entitled “Cloud Bowling,” to be a teaching piece to learn various styles of jazz. Duke Ellington, Ornette Coleman, Dave Brubeck, free jazz, and many other influences find their way into the movements, with multiple opportunities to improvise. “It’s a masterful composition because it’s so open, so free, yet there is structure there.”

In this interview, Shearer walks us through a few movements from both suites, noting where and how they made adjustments to the Bolling piece, and how the whole band collaborated tin the development of the Reyman piece. Both works are now recorded on a double-cd set called “Cloud Bowling with Claude Bolling,” on the Summit label.

Shearer and Reyman, along with Jesus Apodaca on bass, and Andy P. Smith on drums will present two free CD-release concerts: Friday, Feb. 2, at 7:30 p.m. at the Atkinson Recital Hall in Las Cruces, and Wednesday, Feb. 7, at 7:30 p.m. at Fox Fine Arts Recital Hall on the UTEP campus.

Musical clips in the interview:

1) Baroque and Blue” from “Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio,” with James Galway and Tiempo Libre (RCA #32164).

2) All other clips are from the CD “Cloud Bowling with Claude Bolling,” featuring Jim Shearer, Chris Reyman, Erik Unsworth, and Andy P. Smith (Summit #804).