The Legend's Chair

Twenty high school musicians from ten states comprise the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, including six students from California, five from New Jersey, two from Texas, and one each from Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, New York and Oregon.

Joining this accomplished group of young musicians is Henry Solomon, a senior saxophone major at Interlochen Arts Academy.

Created in 1971 as a part of Monterey Jazz Festival's continuing commitment to jazz education, members of the orchestra are selected through an application and audition process during the Festival’s Next Generation Jazz Festival each spring. Former members of the Orchestra include professional musicians such as pianists Benny Green and Patrice Rushen, bassist Larry Grenadier, drummer Chad Wackerman, saxophonists Joshua Redman, Donny McCaslin, Mark Turner, Eric Marienthal, and Dave Koz; trombonist Andy Martin, trumpeters Gilbert Castellanos, Ambrose Akinmusire, and big band leader Gordon Goodwin. In the past, the band has been under the leadership of Ladd McIntosh, Don Schamber, Benny Golson, Bill Berry, and many more. Now under the tutelage of Monterey Jazz Festival’s Education Director, Paul Contos, the renowned saxophonist and flutist who serves as the director of the orchestra, the ensemble is dedicated to the study and performance of the most challenging big band literature available.

The 2013 Orchestra gathered in New York City on July 3 to prepare for the nine-day tour. They performed at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, New York (July 5); the Montreal Jazz Festival (July 6); the Berklee Performance Center in Boston (July 8); and the Jazz Standard in New York City (July 10). The Next Generation Jazz Orchestra also will make their traditional Sunday appearance at the 56th Monterey Jazz Festival on September 22, with 2013 artist-in-residence, Joe Lovano.

"I had to prepare for the tour in a very short amount of time," says Henry. "We were given the last chart a day before the tour started. It was difficult to learn all 15 of the charts in such a short amount of time, but I managed to do so."

"We toured some incredible venues," he continued. "We took busses to each city, which was an experience in itself. The long bus rides gave us time to catch up on our sleep."

"Two highlights that stood out for me were when we arrived at the soundcheck for the Montreal Jazz Festival and, looking out on the plaza, to see thousands of French Canadians excited to hear us play," recalls Henry. "The second highlight was the moment I sat down in my chair at the Jazz Standard and remembered when I saw one of my favorite baritone saxophonists Ronnie Cuber, with the Mingus Big Band, sitting in the same seat."

"Participating in the tour has given me the opportunity to meet and play with some of the most talented high school musicians in the world. I cherish all the friendships that I have made through the tour just as much as the memories from the performances. I also gained some unforgettable performance experience."