VCU jazz professors to perform free concert

Robert Hallahan. Illustration by Anya Shcherbakova.

Alex Falls
Contributing Writer

Some of Richmond’s most renowned jazz contemporaries have united to bring an international medley of jazz compositions to VCU Oct. 3.

Victor Dvoskin. Illustration by Anya Shcherbakova.

Adjunct VCU professor Victor Dvoskin collaborated with Robert Hallahan, a former VCU jazz studies professor now teaching at James Madison University, and local musician Devonne Harris to record the album “Here,” a collection of traditional jazz arrangements and compositions. Dvoskin and Hallahan have worked together many times in the years since they met in the VCU Jazz Masters performing group. “Here” is their first attempt at something permanent.

“We taught together, and slowly — probably after about 10 years — we became close people,” said Dvoskin. “Then I had the chance to go to Russia and I took (Hallahan) as the trio leader … I think I was kind of pushing him a little bit to put out his own record, because we’re not young anymore and it should be done, and he agreed.”

The project was Hallahan’s brainchild. Even though he was the mind behind selecting what songs made it on the album, Hallahan said the skills of his two bandmates brought new interpretations to his arrangements, which he welcomed.

“I did a lot of it myself; it wasn’t a group effort all along the way,” Hallahan said. “But of course once I bring it to the trio, both Victor and Devon by virtue of their own musical attributes and talents are going to put on a certain spin I can’t dictate, nor do I want to.”

To celebrate the album’s release, Dvoskin and Hallahan will be joined on stage by drummer Brian Jones to perform songs from “Here.” The performance will be followed by a Q&A with the trio.

Devonne Harris. Illustration by Anya Shcherbakova.

“The VCU Jazz Studies program made it possible for the adjunct jazz faculty like Victor to do a special offering like this,” Hallahan said. “To get a chance to interact with the students in a way they normally don’t do with regular teachings, but it’s been expanded to be part of this public concert.”

Antonio Garcia, director of jazz studies at VCU, said the program’s goal is to teach the importance of the American art form of jazz and build the skills of its students in preparation for the real world, which relies on the careful approach and international perspective of its professors, like Dvoskin.

“Very few (music schools) have the kind of supportive urban artistic environment that Richmond provides,” Garcia said. “That’s one of the reasons I left a tenured position at a private university to move to VCU in 2001. This city understands the artistic process and wants to be a part of it.”

Hallahan said the album serves as a document of all the times he and Dvoskin have performed together, either as a duo or in any other combinations of musicians.

“The recording, to me, really is a record of what we’ve done together over the years,” Hallahan said. “It’s only one moment in all of this, of course, but it’s a pretty good representative of that and it’s a little something new with Devonne in the mix.”

The “Here” recital will take place Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall at the W. E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts. The event is free to the public. “Here” was released by Richmond-based jazz record label 32 Bar Records on Sept. 23, and is available for digital download.

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