Evan Christopher's "Treat It Gentle Suite" was a commission premiered by the Minnesota Orchestra Minneapolis in July, 2010 as part of their 2010 Jazz at Orchestra Hall series. Divided into a Prelude and three tableaux, the piece showcases the New Orleans clarinet style in a contemporary context. Strings compliment and interact with the jazz ensemble to provide an under-explored texture, especially as an anchoring rhythmic entity. The piece emphasizes exciting clashes between spirited New Orleans grooves against rich orchestral colors. Each tableau celebrates vernacular cultural traditions of the city such as Carnival Day, the timeless jazz funeral, and the mysterious Mardi Gras Indians.
Tableau I: Prelude and "The Remembering Song"
A long Prelude introduces the clarinet as story-teller who sings the song of Mardi Gras morning. We hear the sun awaken to the cracking of a bullwhip somewhere in the heart of the Tremé and the Carnival parades with bands passing each other in the street. As the bands fade into the distance, the city quietly reflects on its big day on stage with a stately theme presented by a traditional New Orleans style jazz band.
Tableau II: Elegie
In the manner of a classic dirge in the jazz funeral tradition, this tableau nods to the city's Spanish influence before showcasing the singing quality of the Creole clarinet style. In the manner of an operatic aria, the clarinet soars over the orchestra with defiant elegance.
Tableau III: "The King of Tremé"
This movement features New Orleans style drumming and celebrates the chants and dances of the Black Mardi Gras Indians who mask in their elaborate suits on special occasions including Carnival day.
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