A concert by the Augusta Jazz Project's Masters of Swing Big Band is a lot like a journey down the blue highways of jazz. Programs wind across historic and stylistic frontiers and offer bite-size nuggets of the varied flavors of truly American music.
The combo will perform songs that range from Dixieland to modern works in a concert at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Imperial Theatre, 745 Broad St.
Rudy Volkmann, the group's artistic director, said he wants to keep programs varied.
"I think because we are a concert group it's very important to switch things up," he said. "It would be different if we were a dance band. But this is like being an actor, and we don't want to be typecast in a certain type of role."
The concert will feature a selection of Duke Ellington classics "restored" by jazz master Wynton Marsalis and the premiere of six pieces by guest saxophonist Jeff Simmons.
Mr. Volkmann said the Ellington pieces will be played in a manner that most jazz audiences will be unfamiliar with - as the legendary Duke wrote them.
"For years, the pieces that have been played have evolved and moved away from the original arrangements," he explained. "These are actual transcriptions, note for note, of what Ellington wrote, taken from original recordings."
In approaching the Ellington pieces, the band found that curbing improvisational instincts wasn't as great a challenge as learning to play the way Ellington's classic combo would have.
"Trying to match the style was a real issue," Mr. Volkmann said. "Fortunately, we're kind of used to it because as a group we do switch styles so often."
Mr. Volkmann said the pieces by Mr. Simmons, a former member of the Masters of Swing, are a good match for the group because they cover a great deal of stylistic ground.
"He does switch things up," Mr. Volkmann said. "He's brought us a rock-funk tune, a blues, even a tango. He's come up with a nice set of tunes. I can't claim that he actually writes them for us, but he is letting us premiere them."
What: Augusta Jazz Project Masters of Swing Big Band
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Imperial Theatre, 745 Broad St.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626.
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