Philip Glass’ Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra, composed in 2000 and transcribed for wind ensemble by Mark Lortz in 2004, is a significant addition to the repertoire of large-scale works for timpani. The work is rhythmically galvanizing, sonically alluring, and features virtuoso cadenzas for both soloists. Symphony No 4 ‘In the Shadow of No Towers’ is Mohammed Fairouz’s first major work for wind ensemble, and its inspiration is the provocative comic book by Art Spiegelman, written shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Spiegelman himself has commented: “I’m moved by [this] scary, somber, and seriously silly symphony…I’m honored that the composer found an echo in my work that allowed him to strike a responsive chord and express his own complex responses to post 9/11 America. He emerges from the rubble with a very tony piece of high-brow cartoon music.”
In the course of an astonishing long life, Leo Ornstein (1893 - 2002) had many shifts of fortune. Recognized as a child prodigy on the piano, Ornstein's family fled the Russian pogroms and moved to New York City in 1906. Ornstein studied piano and composition and graduated from what would become the Juilliard School of Music. From 1915 through the mid 1920's, Ornstein was famous as a concert pianist and notorious as a composer of highly dissonant, futurist works of avant-garde music. Coming from a poor Russian Jewish family, Ornstein married a wealthy heiress, Pauline Mallet-Provost. In the 1920s, Ornstein abruptly retired from the concert stage and founded a music school in Philadelphia.
The Blackbyrds were a jazz-funk group with thick R&B streaks running down their backs. Assembled by Donald Byrd in 1974, the group's original members – percussionist Pericles "Perk" Jacobs, Jr., drummer Keith Killgo, keyboardist Kevin Toney, reeds player Allan Barnes, bassist Joe Hall, guitarist Barney Perry – were mined from Howard University's music department, where the doctor and jazz legend was an instructor. (Other key players included guitarist Orville Saunders and saxophonist/flautist Steve Johnson.)