Tony Hagood: The Music of Dave Brubeck at the MAC

Worthington’s McConnell Arts Center (The MAC) is gearing up to present a new season of its Jazz at the MAC series of jazz concerts in its beautiful Bronwynn Theatre. The 2017-18 season finds experienced educator, pianist and bandleader Tony Hagood at the helm, leading his first concert series after years of great gigs around Columbus and around the world. The Tony Hagood Quartet will kickoff the season with its “The Music of Dave Brubeck” concert on Thursday, October 12th at 7:30pm at the MAC – more info and tickets are available here. Hagood was kind enough to answer my email questions about the series, the band, and the Brubeck show – keep reading to learn more about an exciting performance.

Congratulations on hosting your first concert series! What are your goals and/or overall vision for this season of Jazz at the MAC?

Tony Hagood (TH): Thanks!  I am looking forward to focusing on a single composer for each of our concerts.  I hope to touch on a little bit about these composers’ contributions to and shaping of jazz as we know it today.  Our first concert will focus on Dave Brubeck.  We have “hand-picked” our favorite Brubeck compositions and will add a bit of our individual styles to his music.

The purpose of these concerts is to showcase these jazz greats to people who love them and people who may not be familiar with their work.  It is also gives us a chance to delve deep into what makes them who they are and learn from their contributions so that we can grow from the experience.

For those who may have never seen a concert there, how would you describe the MAC’s Bronwynn Theatre as a venue?

TH: The McConnell Arts Center’s Bronwynn Theatre is a gem.  It seats quite a few people, seating is comfortable, and is built on an incline making it easy to see everything, but the stage itself is not overly large which creates a real intimate atmosphere in the space.  Before and after the show, guests can look at the artwork on display in the gallery as well as enjoy both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages from the café.

Your first concert of the season is showcasing the music of Dave Brubeck. How has he influenced your personal style? Are there aspects of his music that the average jazz fan might not be aware of?

TH: Dave Brubeck was an amazing composer.  His foray with pieces in different time signatures and music from different cultures helped to shape the body of his work.  I try to emulate what I’ve learned from his harmonic and rhythmic creations in my own arrangements and compositions.  When listening to us play any of his tunes, see if you can figure out what time signature we are in because many of the times, it won’t be 4/4!

I see your concert is focusing on Brubeck’s pieces that use unique time signatures, “Take Five” being the iconic example. What attracted you to diving into this material?

TH: The first Dave Brubeck album I listened to at the suggestion of Mark Flugge, who I was studying with, was Time Out.  I immediately fell in love, not with “Take Five” which is undoubtedly his most famous piece, but with “Blue Rondo a la Turk.”  I remember driving the car home trying to figure out what was going on and what made the tune so mesmerizing.  I ended up playing this composition on my Junior recital at Capital way back in 2009. In my opinion Brubeck was a great piano player but an even greater composer and one of the many things that made him great was his experimentation with time. Even compositions that are in a simple 3/4 or 4/4 have built-in polyrhythms.  It’s fascinating to me that a simple accent can change the feel of a piece; Brubeck was an expert at this.

It’s really great to study these polyrhythms, metric modulations, and music in less common time signatures because it makes us all better musicians and we love the music.

Tell us about you and the members of your band for this show. How do you feel your talents will help bring this music to life for the audience?

TH: I, Westerville native Tony Hagood, obtained my Jazz Studies degree from Capital University.  Since then I have played piano for audiences all around the world including China, Japan, South Korea, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and several cities in the Caribbean.  Here in the states, I play for a large range of performances from restaurants to stadiums.

Bradley Mellen is my first call bass player.  Brad just has this uncanny ability to be able to follow whatever I do even if it’s something we have never rehearsed.  Huge ears on that guy.  He is also not afraid to add his voice to the music which I like and respect about him.  He is an accomplished bass player with a degree in Jazz Studies and Composition from the Ohio State University and Jazz Performance from SUNY Purchase. He plays with quite a few musicians around town, in addition to playing the cello for our top 40s through the ages group, Beyond the Bar.

Zach Compston has applied his Jazz Studies at Capital University and Indiana University to a wide variety of performances and education programs. He can be seen weekly in the house band at the Park Street Tavern Tuesday Jazz Jam Session. He is passionate about education and continuing the jazz tradition in Columbus, not only as a performer but as the Director of Education and Community Engagement at Jazz Arts Group.

Will England obtained his degree in Jazz Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he studied with saxophonist and Columbus Jazz Orchestra member, Chad Eby.  Will’s course of study focused on transcription and emulation of many great jazz saxophonists including Paul Desmond of the Dave Brubeck quartet whom Will embraces as a primary influence. Most recently, Will returned from a half-year world cruise performing and later serving as musical director on the Regent Seven Seas Navigator and now performs regularly in the Columbus area.

The great thing about Columbus is it has a thriving music scene and LOTS of great players in it.  I’m fortunate to work with these experts of their craft.  Because of their dedication to music and their huge collective experience, this concert is sure to be one not to miss!

What other shows do you have planned for the rest of the season?

TH: There are four shows in my series. The Music of Dave Brubeck is October 12th.

The Music of Duke Ellington is November 16th.

The Music of the Gershwins with the addition of a few members of the McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra is January 20th.

The Music of Nat King Cole is March 9th.

Join us for one or all!

Anything else you’d like to add for people thinking about checking out the Brubeck show and Jazz at the MAC?

TH: Make sure to buy your tickets ahead of time.  Presale tickets are $5 cheaper than tickets at the door!

We hope to get the Jazz at the MAC season started off strong and are excited to continue bringing you great music.

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