• Patrick Cornelius Octet Live From Berklee: Watch Now

    December 10, 2013. Posted by Chris Dennison.

    Alto saxophonist Patrick Cornelius is that rare thing: a true jazz composer. His works are more than jumping-off points for improvisers, as we heard on Dec. 11, when he premiered a new suite from the Berklee College of Music's Café 939 in Boston.

    Click on the links below to hear or watch our live broadcast of this event.

    “On a lot of great music that I’ve loved over the years in the jazz lexicon, the tune itself is kind of an afterthought,” says Cornelius. “I wanted to take the opposite approach, and write songs that I end up walking around whistling.”

    The musicians Cornelius assembled for this premiere are, like himself, Berklee alums. They include Jason Palmer on trumpet, John Ellis on tenor sax, trombonist Nick Vayenas, guitarist Miles Okazaki, pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Peter Slavov, and drummer Kendrick Scott. Many of this tightly-knit group of musical forward thinkers have appeared on Cornelius’s albums, and vice versa.

    The suite is inspired by When We Were Very Young, the 1924 debut in a book of poetry by A.A. Milne of a friendly bear named Winnie The Pooh.

    798px-The_original_Winnie_the_Pooh_toys
    The original Pooh toys, on display at the New York Public Library

    Winnie has gone on to great fame, and is beloved to children around the world. These include Cornelius’s own toddlers, James and Isabella,who he says inspired him to write the work, a commission for Chamber Music America and the Doris Duke Foundation.

    Fatherhood has also inspired him to explore new directions in his music, he says, which in the past hewed towards the hard-driving and intricate hard bop lines of one of his sax heroes, altoist Cannonball Adderley.

    “Being a father has definitely mellowed a lot of the more aggressive tendencies in my personality… and it’s heightened the more sentimental aspects,” says Cornelius. “It absolutely has influenced the way I hear music and what kind of music I want to write.”

    This sea change can be heard on tracks such as “Bella’s Dreaming” a beautiful ballad with a lullaby feel from his third album, 2011’s Maybe Steps. The album is dedicated to Isabella, who was a newborn at the time.

    Cornelius’s most recent album, 2013’s Infinite Blue with pianist Frank Kimbrough and drummer Jeff Ballard, features eight original, expertly composed, catchy tunes. While these include introspective tracks such as “In The Quiet Moments” and “Waiting,” it also includes fiery, up-tempo burners like “Puzzler.”

    “When it’s time to swing hard, that’s when Cannonball comes out,” he says.

    Enjoy our broadcast of While We’re Still Young, in which Cornelius takes his love of melody and extends it into the realm of long-form composition, for the love of Pooh.

    Note: These comment boards are available to the general public. Statements expressed in the comment boards do not necessarily reflect WBGO's views. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorsement of the views expressed within them. For more information, please read our Terms of Service.