David Amram, Artist Emeritus of The Village Trip festival, might be the most accomplished composer of our times. This is a man who has worked with so many 20th century icons that first names aren’t necessary: Bernstein, Copland, Monk, Gillespie, Mingus, Kerouac, Dylan and Seeger, just to name a few. His roster of collaborators suggests a highly eclectic approach to the arts, with an emphasis on melding the spontaneity of jazz and the lyricism of folk with the structure and tradition of classical music.
During his long and storied career, Amram has witnessed, and taken part in, several tectonic changes in music and culture: the rise and fall of the Beat Generation, the ascendance of jazz as a countercultural art form before rock ’n’ roll superseded it, and collaborations with directors like John Frankenheimer and Elia Kazan when Hollywood was moving towards a new form of personal expression. All the while his prolific work for the concert hall was never limited by popular trends.
Amram, who has written more than 100 orchestral and chamber works and continues to be busy as a musician and lecturer, was the first-ever composer in residence for the New York Philharmonic. It was a year-long post he accepted in 1966 when Leonard Bernstein, the music director and principle conductor for the orchestra, hand-picked Amram for the inaugural position from 100 candidates submitted by the orchestra’s foundation. Bernstein was impressed with David’s work, including the scores for Splendor in the Grass (1960) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962), his original music for Joseph Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park and an opera that was televised on ABC in 1965, The Final Ingredient, An Opera for the Holocaust.
Amram, straddled both the classical and jazz worlds. He was also one of the first serious musicians to incorporate literature into his performances, and was instrumental in creating the first-ever Jazz/Poetry readings in New York with Jack Kerouac. David and Kerouac would collaborate on many projects for more than 12 years, including composing the music for Kerouac’s experimental short Pull My Daisy (1959). In 1965, he wrote the music for the cantata Let Us Remember by the Harlem poet Langston Hughes. He has also incorporated Native American idioms in his music, as well as other indigenous folk traditions.
David’s recent work has brought him to Cuba for the first time in 41 years to perform three concerts at the Havana International Jazz Festival. As Artist Emeritus of The Village Trip, David will present a chamber music concerto featuring his original compositions inspired by Greenwich Village and will appear at the Hootenany Folk Night at The Bitter End Café.
David has invited a distinguished quartet who have performed his music worldwide: violin virtuoso, Elmira Davarova; New York Philharmonic French hornist Howard Wall; renowned classical saxophonist Kenneth Radnofsky; and pianist/composer Thomas Weaver.