The Jazz Mastermind Michael Abene

Written By Sonny Akbar Sembada

Hi, my name is Sonny Akbar Sembada and I welcome you to my blog, The Uncle Jazz. The main topic of my blog is everything related to jazz music.. 

Meet the jazz mastermind Michael Abene – the brains behind the beats. He’s not just a composer, arranger, keyboard virtuoso, and record producer; he’s the real deal. Born on July 2, 1948, in the heart of Brooklyn, New York.

Skip ahead to 2004, and the jazz mastermind Michael’s calling the shots as the top dog – the Musical Director-Principal Arranger/Composer of the WDR Radio Big Band in Cologne, Germany. You know, the band that’s got all of Europe saying, “Yep, they’re the cream of the crop.”

Michael Abene: The Jazz Mastermind

in November 2011, he takes on the role of Professor of Ensemble Conducting at the KUG Jazz Institute in Graz, Austria. And just to add more cool points, he’s the Associate Music Director of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop and the go-to guy for Jazz Composition at the Manhattan School of Music.

But wait, there’s more – The jazz mastermind Michael’s got Grammy-winning projects up his sleeve, like “Digital Duke” with the Duke Ellington Orchestra and “The GRP All-Star Big Band-All Blues.”

And he’s not just a producer; he’s a nomination magnet. “The GRP All-Star Big Band” and “The GRP All-Star Big Band Live” snagged Grammy noms too. And there’s more – he’s up for a Grammy nod for arranging “America” from “Dave Grusin Presents West Side Story.”

Read also American Jazz Vibraphonist: The Dedicated Lionel Hampton

Hold on, we’re not done. His resume reads like a who’s who of the music world – Maynard Ferguson, Maceo Parker, Take 6, Billy Cobham, Chick Corea.

Premiere Party and Recent Jams

Let’s talk premieres. Back in 2000, he dropped a track for the Metropole Jazz Orchestra, featuring seven trombones doing their thing. It’s like a trombone symphony, and it premiered in the Netherlands.

Then there’s “Heritage: New/Old and Then Some,” a special piece for bass trombonist Dave Taylor. Played by The Mancini Institute Big Band, Manhattan School of Music Jazz Orchestra, and even the Amsterdam Conservatory Orchestra – it’s a world tour of trombone greatness.

Fast forward to 2003, and The jazz mastermind Michael’s cooking up “Odyssey for Brass” with the Metropole Jazz Orchestra and “Fragmentations” with the Slovenian Symphony and Radio Big Band. Not your average summer playlist, huh?

And who can forget “PFP” (Piece for Paquito) – a tune for the WDR Big Band featuring the legendary Paquito D’Rivera. It debuted in 2006 and got a symphony orchestra remix later.

Youtube video by WDR BIG BAND 

Jamming Into the Future

Now, the fun never stops. The jazz mastermind Michael’s got more projects cooking, like arranging, producing, and directing Patti Austin’s Grammy-winning CD “Avant Gershwin” – a real toe-tapper.

He’s also behind the scenes for Joe Lovano’s Grammy-nominated “Symphonnica” and French guitarist Bireli Lagrene’s “Djangology.” Oh, and a little something with saxophonist Bill Evans, drummer Dave Weckl, and bassist Mark Egan – “Van’s Joint.”

And guess what? All these recent gems involve the sensational WDR Big Band in Cologne. Michael’s like the maestro orchestrating the coolest jams.

Up next, he’s got collabs with Randy Brecker, Chris Potter, and Tom Harrell. He’s directing and arranging for bands in Germany and Slovenia, and his workshop game is strong in both Europe and the US.

And if you’re into books, he’s co-authored “Jazz Composition and Arranging In the Digital Age” – a must-have for anyone serious about their musical journey. So, there you have it – The jazz mastermind Michael Abene, the maestro, keeping the jazz vibes alive and kicking!

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