about Rick Hirsch's Big Ol' Band
Jazz Weekly describes Rick Hirsch’s Big Ol’ Band as “a modern sounding big band that packs a wallop.” And AllAboutJazz.com praises their debut CD Pocono Git-Down as “a sensational and exciting big band recording that deserves serious attention—4.5 stars.”
The Big Ol’ Band is spearheaded by Rick Hirsch, a nationally-known jazz composer, saxophonist, and educator living in State College, PA. Queen guitarist Brian May says Hirsch’s music is “rich and daring…and entirely stimulating” while producer-songwriter Leo Sidran calls it “very hip, very accessible.”
Hirsch is a musical storyteller with a broad palette that spans Charles Mingus to Dave Brubeck, Tito Puente to Led Zeppelin, and Astor Piazzolla to Klezmer music. He apprenticed with master composers Bob Minzter and Toshiko Akiyoshi, serving each as personal music copyist. Hirsch has written music for jazz legends Tito Puente, Eddie Henderson, and Yusef Lateef; the Capitol Quartet; the Jazz Education Network; and loads of student, collegiate, and professional groups worldwide. Hirsch is also the longtime staff arranger for the Penn State (Marching) Blue Band, who performs his halftime shows to 100,000-person audiences in Penn State’s Beaver Stadium.
The members of the Big Ol’ Band have several Grammys among them. In their own diverse careers, these wonderful musicians have performed and recorded with the Bob Mintzer Big Band, the Airmen of Note, the Buddy Rich Big Band, the US Army Jazz Ambassadors, the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, Maria Schneider, the Brian Setzer Orchestra, the US Navy Commodores, Max Roach, Curtis Fuller, Clark Terry, and the indie-pop band Saint Motel.
The Big Ol’ Band’s featured soloists include trombonist Jim McFalls, pianist Steve Rudolph, accordionist Alex Meixner, saxophonists Greg Johnson and Matt Vashlishan, and trumpeter Eddie Severn.
Lastly, Rick Hirsch is a sought-after jazz educator. He has guest-conducted numerous All-State and Honor Jazz Bands and has presented master classes in well over one hundred schools and colleges around the country. He has presented jazz pedagogy clinics at the international JEN Conference, the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, and at multiple state music education conventions. And he has a thriving independent teaching studio in State College, PA, coaching local students in saxophone ensembles and lessons.
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Passing the torch
A central mission of the Big Ol' Band is to inspire and excite young musicians—the same way we were excited by great bands when we were that age. Watch Rick explain this to student musicians in Central Pennsylvania before a big concert.
Our cast of characters:
saxophonists » Tim Powell » Kate Anderson » Matt Vashlishan » Greg Johnson » Pete BarenBregge » Jonathan Ragonese » Oliver Fairley
trumpeters » Eddie Severn » Brent Turney » Dale Orris » Barry Long » Jeff Smith
trombonists » Jim McFalls » Dan Weiner » Jay Vonada » Wes Thompson » Matt Neff
rhythm » Steve Rudolph (piano) » Jeff Beck (bass) » Kevin Lowe (drums) » Tim Breon (guitar) » Bob Velez (percussion) » James Witherite (aux. keys)
special guest » Alex Meixner (accordion)
vocalist » Eric Ian Farmer