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Saluting Sophisticated Ladies at Harborfields High School

“Sophisticated Lady,” poster thumbnail245008

In mid-March, the Tornado News Team and Harborfields High School Jazz Band released their latest collaborative venture, a 30-minute feature documentary paying tribute to the women who have shaped the latter ensemble. A tale in two parts, the video details the story of a newly-commissioned arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady,” written by world-renowned low-brass specialist Jennifer Wharton and featuring senior trombonist Alexa Best. It connects the voices of members of an unspoken sisterhood – numerous female HHS Jazz and members, past and present – to bring important truths to light.  

“Early on, I realized that this commission created a real opportunity to say something important about the difficulties women in jazz have faced throughout history, the positive and significant impact that the sophisticated ladies of the HHS Jazz Band have had on our program, and the community they’ve created in the process,” Jazz Band Director Dan Bilawsky said. “And in order to do right by the people and subject, I really wanted the women themselves to tell the story.”

Turning that hope into a reality by reaching out to alumnae of the program stretching back across his 15 years at the helm, Bilawsky helped to bridge individual thoughts into deep dialogue on the matter. Once those pieces were in place, the documentary began to take shape in conversation with the school’s celebrated media journalism program and its adviser, Vincent Ambrosio. Having previously collaborated on socially-distanced, COVID-era video performances (which received praise and recognition from the Long Island Music Hall of Fame) and a 2021 documentary and concise video offshoots about a commission of Abdullah Ibrahim’s “The Wedding” by three-time Grammy nominee Alan Ferber (honored through Stony Brook University), both organizations agreed to team up again to create this compelling story that speaks volumes about the importance of sophisticated ladies – in Harborfields and beyond – within the jazz sphere.  

To watch the documentary, please click here

Date Added: 4/13/2023