During a recent conference call among the Polyphonic team, the question arose about whether orchestra musicians ever make musical political statements. Certainly many orchestras performed for “Musicians Against Nuclear Arms” (MANA) back in the 1970s and 1980s. I personally put together a concert with the Hartford Symphony and other area musicians in 1985, featuring Benita Valente, Philip Smith, and Robert J. Lurtsema, that raised $40,000 for the cause. Several musicians did decline to play, not wanting to make a political statement with their instruments.
More recently, Hartford Symphony string players have performed with Jimmy Greene on an album, Beautiful Life, he created to honor his daughter Ana Márquez-Greene, one of the 20 children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Ironically, Jimmy had recently moved to Newtown to provide a safe environment for his two children.
HSO timpanist and jazz drummer Gene Bozzi created a series called “Jazz ‘n Strings” a few years ago, where HSO string players performed classic jazz albums with noted jazz artists. Walter Gwardyak did the arrangements, often replicating the performances by listening to an old recording many, many times. Jimmy Greene was one such featured jazz artist on a regularly-scheduled Jazz ‘n Strings.
Thus it was with great emotion that HSO string players worked with Jimmy Greene to record several tracks on Beautiful Life, the tribute CD for his daughter, available through Mack Avenue Records. And on November 29. 2015 they all performed selections from the CD live at Infinity Hall in Hartford.