“My decision took a nanosecond. When they asked me on a scale of one to 10 — one being ‘I’m not interested,’ 10 being ‘I’m ready to sign on the dotted line’ — I was a 15.” —Jeff Tyzik on accepting the late Marvin Hamlisch’s position as principal pops conductor-Seattle Symphony, Seattle Times/Michael Upchurch interview, October 9, 2012
It probably doesn’t hurt the Seattle Symphony that its principal pops conductor is a jazz musician. Grammy winner Jeff Tyzik took over the late Marvin Hamlisch’s position back in August of last year — in a heartbeat.
The former principal pops conductor for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Oregon Symphony, Florida Orchestra, and Vancouver Symphony Orchestra had only a passing knowledge of Hamlisch, through many of the colleagues they worked with. It took him no time at all to accept the new Seattle post. “My decision took a nanosecond. When they asked me on a scale of one to 10 — one being ‘I’m not interested,’ 10 being ‘I’m ready to sign on the dotted line’ — I was a 15,” explained the cornet player/record producer/composer in an October 9, 2012 Seattle Times interview by Michael Upchurch.
Tyzik has an illustrious past filled with a Who’s Who in the recording and performing arts. He produced and arranged “The Tonight Show Band With Doc Severinsen, Vol. 1,” which nabbed a Grammy in 1987. Chuck Mangione helped cultivate the budding pops conductor early on, while studying at the Eastman School of Music. The Hyde Park, NY native who studied jazz and classical music in high school would move on to work with Tony Bennett, Art Garfunkel, Arturo Sandoval, John Pizzarelli, and Dawn Upshaw, to name a few.
Tyzik was already on board to conduct the upcoming A Night At The Cotton Club with the Seattle Symphony before Hamlisch passed away. The June 6-9 concerts will take audiences back in time to the 1920s-40s, where everyone went to the Cotton Club in Harlem to have a grand time with Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Benny Carter, Ella Fitzgerald…
Jeff Tyzik leads the Seattle Symphony through some of his own arrangements of Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean A Thing,” Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler’s “Stormy Weather,” Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm,” and Calloway’s “Minnie The Moocher,” along with many other tunes from that period.
Featured on this time-traveling ride: Tony-nominated Ted Louis Levy (Jelly’s Last Jam, Bring In ‘Da Noise, Bring In ‘Da Funk) singing vocals and tap dancing, vocalist Carmen Bradford (Count Basie Orchestra), trumpeter Byron Stripling (Columbus Jazz Orchestra), and drummer Bob Breithaupt (Jazz Arts Group’s Columbus Jazz Orchestra).
A Night At The Cotton Club: Seattle Symphony Swings To Music Of Jazz Giants takes over Benaroya Hall-S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium on 200 University St., downtown Seattle. Call the ticket office at (206) 215-4747 for more info.