Smith’s compositions are devised, both formally and conceptually, to rely heavily on collective group improvisation and to avoid many of the techniques that have become the status-quo approach for modern big-band writing. The Ensemble conjures images of both disturbance and intensity, while simultaneously providing an undercurrent of ephemeral optimism, evoking the subtle comfort that the world has not yet gone dark. Often pushed to their limits, the musicians collectively thrash and roar through Smith’s compositions, the soloists soar over powerfully churning distortion ladened ostinatos, ever-changing mixed meters, feedback squeals and anthemic melodies. A powerful, compelling debut from a serious new composer on the Brooklyn/NYC scene.
Smith has received the Billy Joel Scholarship for Composition, the Raymond and Maxine Schirmer Prize in Jazz Composition, the 2010 ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composers Award, the 2010 BMI Foundation Charlie Parker Composition Prize, the 2011 Manny Albam Commission, and special recognition by the Jazz Advisory Committee of the New York Youth Symphony for exceptional accomplishment in music composition. Smith’s compositions have been performed by ensembles throughout the United States, including the Eastman Jazz Ensemble, the Eastman Studio Orchestra, the Shrine Jazz Club Big Band, the University of Reno Jazz Lab Band, the Reno Jazz Ensemble, Saxology, the BMI New York Jazz Ensemble, the Humboldt State University Jazz Orchestra, the University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire Jazz Ensemble, and the University of Connecticut Jazz Ensemble. His music has also been featured at the Vancouver Jazz Festival and the Rochester International Jazz Festival.
“Don’t let the eighteen-member size of this jazz band scare you. This isn’t Grandpa’s big band, nor your Dad’s. Nor necessarily anybody else who’s into big band jazz. The Nathan Parker Smith Large Ensemble is for the rest of us.” S. Victory Aaron, Something Else Reviews.
“One of the most improbable, impractical bands I have ever seen, I think that’s great.” John Schaefer, WNYC Soundcheck.
“…[a] muscular, bracingly intricate new disc…” Time Out New York.
“…[a] band that just about blows down the house… This is blockbuster, even bruising, music with little respite on the program; such vigorous music might scare some folks away, [I] can’t wait to hear this ensemble live.” Richard B. Kamins, Step Tempest.
“…[a] seriously aggressive large ensemble… Music that speaks loudly and carries a big stick, too.” Dave Sumner, Wondering Sound.
Robert Washut is Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of Northern Iowa where he retired in 2018. He served as Director of Jazz Studies from 1980-2002. An accomplished jazz composer and arranger, Washut has received numerous commissions from collegiate and high school jazz ensembles, professional jazz artists, and symphony orchestras. Many of his works are published by Kendor Music, UNC Jazz Press, ejazzlines, C.L. Barnhouse, Lorenz, Sierra Music, 3-2 Music, and Really Good Music. Washut also has served as jazz composer-in-residence at several universities around the country.
During his 22 years as director of the award-winning UNI Jazz Band One, Washut recorded eleven CDs (two of which earned 5-star ratings from DownBeat magazine), toured Europe three times, consistently received “Outstanding Band” recognition at collegiate jazz festivals throughout the Midwest, and was awarded three “Outstanding Performance” citations in DownBeat’s Annual Student Music Awards.
Dr. Washut is in demand as a clinician and adjudicator nationally, and has conducted all-state jazz bands in 16 states. He is also a jazz pianist who founded the locally popular Latin jazz band, Orquesta Alto Maiz, in 1986, with which he remained for 27 years. His newest recording, Journey to Knowhere, was released in January, 2018 and features his original compositions for jazz dodectet. In 2000, he was a composer/arranger for Bobby Shew’s Salsa Caliente recording. Washut also recorded a jazz duo CD (with Chris Merz) entitled Gemini, in 2007, and a jazz trio CD (with Mark Urness & Kevin Hart) entitled Songbook, in 1999. With Orquesta Alto Maiz, he recorded 10 CDs and performed nationally and internationally. In 2013 Washut was inducted into the Des Moines Hall of Fame and the Iowa IAJE Hall of Fame in 2003. At UNI he was the recipient of the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Orfeus award in 2018, the recipient of the Distinguished Scholar Award in 2015, and the College of Humanities, Arts, and Sciences Dean’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship, Research, and Creative Activity in 2014. He received the Outstanding Teaching Award in 1996. In 2019, Washut was bestowed with the Iowa Bandmaster Association’s Honorary Lifetime Membership.