Jeremy Siskind has been recognized as one of the top jazz pianists among his peers, an artist who is on a mission to bring the rich wonder of live music to a techno-savvy generation. Here he performs a concert of jazz improvisations on Debussy’s Preludes along with colleague Andrew Rathbun.
This is part of The Gilmore’s “mini-series” at Wellspring focusing on Debussy’s masterwork. Lori Sims performs Parts I and III of the Debussy series on Wednesday and Friday.
Pianist, composer, and educator Jeremy Siskind is “a remarkable pianist” and “a rising star on the jazz scene” according to legendary pianist Marian McPartland.
Siskind, born in 1986, hails from Irvine, California, and began playing the piano at a very young age. When his parents noticed he had a knack for picking up tunes, they enrolled him in a Yamaha piano class; was soon welcomed into the Junior Special Advanced Course, under the guidance of Suzanne Wong-Abe.
Siskind thrived in the Yamaha system, especially in the creative aspects – improvisation and composition. These strengths led to his entry into many Junior Original Concert (JOC) competitions – Yamaha events designed to showcase students performing their own pieces. Through the JOC program, Siskind found himself playing all over the country: at the Yamaha piano manufacturer’s in Thomaston Georgia, at the National Association of Music Merchants’ convention in Los Angeles, the University of Madison in Wisconsin, and other venues. Twice, Siskind was flown to Tokyo, Japan to perform his jazz-influenced pieces for Japanese audiences.
As it became increasingly apparent that he was better suited for improvising than sticking to the music, Siskind was soon introduced to jazz. His first jazz teacher was Linda Martinez, a young, enthusiastic, and brilliant composer and pianist who quickly became his mentor. Both his playing and composing quickly thrived – he won first place in the soloist competition at the Fullerton College Jazz Festival, “Most Outstanding Rhythm Player” in the Reno Jazz Festival, and won scholarships from the “Friends of Jazz,” “O.C. Community Foundation Centennial Arts,” and the “Vail Jazz Foundation”; as for his writing, he became the youngest winner of the American Society of Composers, Authors, & Publisher’s (ASCAP) Young Jazz Composer’s Awards (he traveled to New York to accept the award where he was overwhelmed to meet a personal hero, jazz legend Hank Jones).
Toronto native Andrew Rathbun is widely esteemed as one of the most creative and accomplished saxophonists, composers and bandleaders of his generation. On tenor and soprano saxophones he has achieved a rare depth of lyricism, authoritative swing and compositional intelligence. Recording steadily as a leader since the late 1990s, he has documented his stirring original music with an array of extraordinary lineups, featuring the talents of such greats as Kenny Wheeler, Billy Hart, George Garzone, Phil Markowitz and Bill Stewart. “Rathbun’s lines dance and glide,” writes David Whiteis of JazzTimes, “reflecting both childlike wonder and well-honed artistry.”
Rooted in the fiery improvisatory legacy of post-bop jazz, Rathbun’s music is also deeply informed by classical composition. His works include song cycles, suites, and chamber and orchestral pieces for a wide range of ensembles. His 2005 duo release with pianist George Colligan, Renderings, features adaptations of Maurice Ravel and Federico Mompou, as well as an original seven-movement “Suite for Soprano Saxophone and Piano” inspired by the great Wayne Shorter. His 2010 release The Idea of North, inspired by the radio documentaries of Glenn Gould, includes a sextet arrangement of Christoph Glück’s “Minuet and Dance of the Blessed Spirits.” Rathbun has also written big band commissions for the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra, the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, the Metropole Orkest and other ensembles, and performed and composed commercial music for roughly 10 years as well.
Another of Rathbun’s inspirations is poetry: his 1998 recording Jade set to music the verse of Cathy Song, while his 2000 follow-up True Stories focused on the work of fellow Canadian Margaret Atwood. On both these recordings, acclaimed Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza captured the imagery and deep emotion of the poems while meeting every technical challenge posed by Rathbun’s involved orchestrations. Trumpeter Taylor Haskins played a major role on these early releases, not to mention Rathbun’s debut, Scatter Some Stones; he would later appear on Affairs of State, The Idea of North and two tracks from Numbers & Letters, Rathbun’s exploratory 2014 quartet session.