Profile

Composer, author, and bandleader Andy Jaffe recently retired from teaching in the Williams College Department of Music, where he founded the jazz program and was its Director for 30 years, as well as having served from 1999–2009 as Artistic Director of The Williamstown Jazz Festival, which he also founded. 

Andy has been a leader in jazz pedagogy for 40 years, having taught at the Berklee College of Music (1977–81); The Institut Musical de formation Professionelle in Nimes, France (1984); The University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Graduate program in Afro-American Music and Jazz (1994–98); Amherst College (1987–99); Tufts University (1991–93); Smith College (1997–99); The Tainan (Taiwan) National University of the Arts (2009 and 2014), as well as at Williams (since 1989), where, besides directing the Jazz ensembles until 2013, he taught courses in jazz ear training, theory/improvisation, arranging/composition, on the music of Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, and the music of Brazil. In addition, he is a founding faculty member at the Vermont College of Fine Arts low-residency Master of Fine Arts program in Music Composition and the Impact Music Program at the Taipei (Taiwan) Arts University.

His most recent CD, entitled Chorinhoso, is a compilation of his original Brazilian-influenced compositions released in 2020 on the Playscape Label, about which its Downbeat review said, “Jaffe’s orchestrations are lush and impeccably voiced…their harmonic weightlessness is balanced by the ethereal lucidity of a rhythm section that understands Brazilian Music.” His penultimate effort, Arc, featured his original compositions and has received positive reviews and extensive airplay since its release in April 2016. Musicians on both efforts include the late Wallace Roney (trumpet), Jimmy Greene and Kris Allen (saxophones), John Clark (French horn), Bruce Williamson (soprano saxophone and bass clarinet), the composer’s son (and protégé of Ron Carter) Marty Jaffe on bass, Jonathan Barber on drums, and on Arc the Interestring Quartet from Taipei. (On Chorinhoso Rogério Boccato plays drums and percussion, and Avery Sharpe shares bass duties with Marty Jaffe).

Listed among the “top 10” releases for April 2016 by David Adler of the New York Times, Downbeat praised Arc for its “graceful precision,” while All About Jazz’s Mark Carroto described it as “flawless.”

His numerous original compositions and arrangements are written for a wide range of instrumental and vocal ensembles, from piano solo and duo to works for jazz orchestra. Recent projects demonstrate his compositional versatility and include a suite for jazz orchestra dedicated to his late colleague, Prof. Ernest Brown, entitled “Every Day Blues” (premiered by the Berkshire Symphony under the baton of Ronald Feldman in Nov. 2012), and a series of a cappella settings of Taiwanese aboriginal folksongs by the Taipei based Okai Singers. (These and other pieces for big band, sextet, and piano duo may be heard at the public Dropbox folder located on the homepage of his website.)

In addition to Arc, his commercially available recordings include Manhattan Projections (original material for jazz sextet featuring former students Branford Marsalis, Wallace Roney, and Marvin “Smitty” Smith, recently re-released on Parma Recordings) and Double Helix (a piano duo with the late Tom McClung originally released on Liscio Recordings).

His 2004 release, An Imperfect Storm, featuring large ensemble compositions, was also reissued in 2011 on Parma Records. It includes Jaffe’s music as recorded by the Bill Lowe-Andy Jaffe Repertory Big Band, for which he has been principal arranger and musical director since 1986, and the Slovak Radio Orchestra and Big Band, featuring soloists Thomas Chapin, Tom McClung, Richard Stoltzman, Bruce Williamson, and Bob Weiner. His woodwind quintet was recently released on Darryl Harper’s most recent CD, The Need’s Got to be So Deep. (Excerpts from the quintet may also be accessed via his website.)

Andy has appeared frequently as a guest lecturer, artist, and conductor, including at Harvard University, New England Conservatory, Brown University, Rutgers University, The University of Kentucky, Wesleyan University, Vermont All-State Festival, Bratislava Conservatory (Slovak Republic), University of Auckland (New Zealand), The National Conservatory in Valletta (Malta), Soochow University (Taiwan), Taiwan Normal University, Sun Yat Sen University (Taiwan), Taipei National University of the Arts, The Beijing Midi School, the DoDD School System (Germany), and as a perennial presenter at the International Association of Jazz Educators’ annual convention, having published articles in the IAJE Research Papers Journal on such topics as the music of Duke Ellington, Hermeto Pascoal, and jazz composition.

In 2015 his sextet headlined the Taipei Jazz Festival, in 2017 his nonet headlined the Easthampton Jazz Festival, and in 2009 he led his ensemble at the Toulon Jazz Festival in France. In 2001 he led an ensemble including Winard Harper (drums), Freddie Bryant (guitar), and John Blake (violin) in a concert of his original music at the IAJE convention in New York, for which he was given an award for Outstanding Service to Jazz Education. In 2003 he premiered a three-movement double quartet entitled Bridge (for jazz wuartet and string quartet) for saxophonist Branford Marsalis and his quartet, joined by The Ciompi Quartet and tabla player Samir Chatterjee.

His 1996 text, Jazz Harmony (Advance Music) is now in its third edition and is widely recognized as one of the most influential in its field. His most recent book, entitled Something Borrowed, Something Blue, was also published by Advance in 2011 and was the subject of his January 2005 presentation at the IAJE annual conference, held in Long Beach, California.

Later this year he will release an updated version of a fakebook of his original compositions.

Education

MM - Theory/Composition | University of Massachusetts, Amherst
BA - Political Science | St Lawrence University

Selected work

Don DiNicola

Faculty

John Mallia

Faculty, MFA in Music Composition

Michael Early

Faculty Co-Chair, MFA in Music Composition

Roger Zahab

Faculty, MFA in Music Composition

John Fitz Rogers

Faculty

Rick Baitz

Faculty, MFA in Music Composition