Jazz ensemble Skrontch to play at Ole Miss

Published 9:26 am Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Composer and clarinetist Byron Asher is bringing his jazz ensemble Skrontch to the University of Mississippi this week.

The group will play at Nutt Auditorium on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in support of their recent project, Skrontch Music. Prior to the performance, Asher will be a guest on the hour-long online talk show “LMR Live” with Nancy Maria Balach at 1 p.m.

Skrontch’s music includes traditional and contemporary jazz, improvisation, soundscapes, historical recordings and other elements. It sinks into the New Orleans locations where jazz was born, especially the clarinet tradition as well as neighborhoods that fostered some of the city’s most important anti-Jim Crow activism.

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Asher uses the music of Skrontch to explore that relationship. The group is comprised of a five-movement, researched-based suite for a 10-piece ensemble.

“There was something that was happening at the time that led to both political agitation and artistic excellence, and I wanted to address that duality,” Asher said recently of his project.

The ensemble includes some of New Orleans’ older jazz generation, including James Singleton. The group borrows its name from a lesser-known swing-era dance step that Duke Ellington featured in his show at the Cotton Club in the late 1930s. The group released a recording last year on Sinking City Records.

“In developing Skrontch Music, Asher drew from unusual resources, such as his oral histories of jazz clarinet elders in New Orleans and text from Plessy V. Ferguson, but he’s never strayed from the musical excellence for which he’s known, and his ensemble includes musicians of extremely high caliber,” Balach said. “I can’t wait to talk with him about this fascinating project and welcome everyone to be a part of the studio audience.”

The show is part of a partnership with the UM Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Department of Music and Living Music Resource. It is made possible with the support of Jazz Road, a national initiative of South Arts, which is funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with additional support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The radio show and the performance are both taking place at Nutt Auditorium and are free to the public.