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Art&Seek on Think TV: Jazz at One O’Clock


by Jerome Weeks 29 Jun 2009

Art & Seek spoke to Steve Wiest, the director of the One O’Clock Lab And, just as UNT’s leading jazz group is about to head to Thailand to perform as the featured big band at the World Saxophone Congress in Bangkok. We talked about the declining audience for jazz (is it entirely overseas now?), the place of the trombone in jazz (preferably in the back, near the drinks) and the future of jazz (soon to be traded as a commodity).

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Earlier this year, Steve Wiest was appointed director of the University of North Texas’ celebrated, world-traveling jazz group, the One O’Clock Lab Band. Wiest had been serving as interim director since the retirement of Neil Slater last year after 27 years at the helm.

Wiest is a jazz trombonist, a veteran of both the Doc Severinsen and Maynard Ferguson bands. He’s recorded his own albums and was nominated for a Grammy as a jazz arranger (for “Besame Mucho” with Maynard Ferguson). He has performed with such artists as Wynton Marsalis, Slide Hampton and Freddie Hubbard.

Art & Seek spoke to Wiest just as the One O’Clock Lab Band is about to head to Thailand to perform as the featured big band at the World Saxophone Congress to be held July 7-12 in Bangkok. We talked about the declining audience for jazz (is it entirely overseas now?), the future of jazz (can it be traded as a commodity?) and the place of the trombone in jazz (preferably in the back, near the drinks and chips).

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  • Excellent interview. STEVE WEIST more than held his own, over tough questions that the media, never addresses the president with.lol

  • Mike Walterman

    The One O’Clock Lab band has become the poster child for “ensemble bee-bop.” What happened to the music? Their devotion to “Higher/Faster/Louder” has left any concept of musical emotion in the dust. Once again, academic dissection of a topic has left it bereft of any life and energy. You can’t dissect the patient, and then bring it back to life. Gestalt just doesn’t allow it. Big band jazz is a mere shadow of its former self, thus the steady decline in its popularity. The musical free market is speaking, and the academicians (once again) will not listen.

  • It was my great pleasure to appear on this program to discuss the state of jazz in the world today. Having been given the great honor of working with the wonderfully devoted and talented students of The One O’Clock Lab Band, I can tell you with strong conviction that the future of jazz is in good hands indeed!

    Far from the demeaning and flippant description offered up by Mr. Walterman, the students of this great group work tirelessly everyday to learn as much as they can about this great music. I can tell you that they cover all aspects of the tradition including “lower, slower, and softer!” Why waste time and virtual “ink” cutting down the very students who are practicing their hearts out learning the ballad styles of Dexter, Trane, J.J., Evans, Chet, et al while also learning the exciting language of extroverts like Kenton, Maynard, Roland Kirk, et al… and all the while striving to achieve the ultimate goal: an individual sound and voice?

    While I realize there will always be tired and jaded souls who will chastise the gifted and exciting torch bearers for this music, I am proud indeed to be associated with a wonderful faculty who nurtures and lifts up this next generation of jazz artists.

    Jazz is not dead, dying, or even slightly ill. While it has not been the popular music of the US. since the 1940s, it has remained and always will be a vibrant and beautiful living artform. A treasure to be cherished. All one must do is actually listen to a UNT Lab Band recording to know this is true. I invite you all to do just that by visiting http://www.theoneoclock.com

    • Mike Walterman

      Much like a trombonist plays the trombone, the director of an ensemble has as his or her instrument … well … the ensemble. Georg Solti put it best when he was asked “what instrument do you play?” He simply responded “the orchestra (re: Chicago Symphony) is my instrument.” I would warn Mr. Weist that there are many of us out here in the real world who would much rather listen to the 2 O’clock than the 1 O’clock. Why? The difference is in the leadership, the difference is in who is playing the ensemble as their instrument.