RTC-17: 1959 Robbins’ Round for Jazz Band

Commission: ?
Length: 8 min.
Completion: 1959-03-29, YVR
Premiere: 1959, The Dave Robbins Jazz Ensemble, Vancouver Arena, concert and CBC Broadcast

  1. 1962-05-30, Dave Robbins Jazz Ensemble, Seattle World’s Fair
  2. 2000-05-11, Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra, Richard Gillis (cond.)

Publication: CMC

Robbins’ Round is a concertino for Jazz Band. The work was written for the Dave Robbins Jazz Ensemble in Vancouver and premiered on the CBC in 1959. Other performances that Turner recalls were at the Seattle World’s Fair on 30 May 1962.

It is scored for 2 alto, 2 tenor and baritone saxophones (alternating on 3 clarinets, bass clarinet and flute), 5 trumpets, 4 trombones, drums, piano and double bass. The work opens with a slow introductory section featuring solo trombone (Dave Robbins’ instrument) followed by the drummer improvising a transition into the main, fast section which ends with an improvised solo for the trumpet. Then follows a slower more melodic section for the clarinets and flute, with muted brass. Another improvised transition, this time for piano, bring a return of the opening fast section and a coda featuring again the solo trombone. While the work’s instrumental sonorities and syncopated rhythms may characterize the jazz idiom, the melodies and harmonies are perhaps more related to an avant-garde or atonal style, the latter being part of the composer’s musical idiom for the next ten years. He only wrote some jazz sequences in a couple of later works. Robbins’ Round is his first and only complete work for jazz band.

[These notes were written on 10 May 2000 for a performance by the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra under Richard Gillis’ direction.]