How To Say Goodbye (JCA Recordings)

Ken Schaphorst Big Band

Released December 2016

DownBeat Four-and-a-Half-Star Review




If there’s a theme to this recording, it’s my relationship to the community of artists who have inspired me over the years that I’ve been composing and playing music. The musicians who played on this recording include many friends who I’ve known since I put together my first big band over 30 years ago. As time goes on, I realize how much these relationships have influenced me, how much I rely on these individual voices.

I’ve also had the luxury of working with many tremendously talented students at Lawrence University and New England Conservatory over the last 25 years. And these pieces have been profoundly influenced by my interactions with these young artists. It only seems right that three members of the band—Brian Landrus, Michael Thomas and Jeremy Udden—were students of mine at NEC.

“Blues for Herb” and “Take Back the Country” are memorials to two of my mentors, Herb Pomeroy and Bob Brookmeyer. “Blues for Herb” was influenced by Herb’s playing as well as his love for the music of Duke Ellington. In “Take Back the Country,” I was thinking specifically of Bob Brookmeyer’s playing with Gerry Mulligan, and the unique blend of jazz and American folk music that they tapped into. I was also thinking about Bob’s frustration with American politics. “How to Say Goodbye” was composed for John Carlson, but it seems like an appropriate title for this recording as a whole, which owes so much to the lessons I’ve learned from mentors who are no longer with us.

Thanks to New England Conservatory for granting me a sabbatical during the fall semester of 2014, which allowed me the time to reflect and prepare for this recording. Thanks to James Farber and Avatar Studios or their help during the recording and mixing process. Thanks to all of the amazing players who brought my music to life. And thanks my family—Ellen, Zach and Max—for their continuing love and support.

Ken Schaphorst

Track Listing:

1. How to Say Goodbye (Ken Schaphorst) 07:52

2. Blues for Herb (Ken Schaphorst) 06:57

3. Mbira 1 (Ken Schaphorst) 08:25

4. Green City (Ken Schaphorst) 05:25

5. Amnesia (Ken Schaphorst) 06:48

6. Take Back the Country (Ken Schaphorst) 05:53

7. Float (Ken Schaphorst) 07:37

8. Mbira 2 (Ken Schaphorst) 06:21

9. Global Sweat (Ken Schaphorst) 09:03

10. Descent (Ken Schaphorst) 06:11


Ken Schaphorst: Fender Rhodes (1), trumpet (9)

Ralph Alessi, Dave Ballou, John Carlson, Tony Kadleck: flugelhorns, trumpets

Luis Bonilla, Curtis Hasselbring, Jason Jackson: trombones

Jennifer Wharton: bass trombone

Michael Thomas: clarinet, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone

Jeremy Udden: alto saxophone

Chris Cheek, Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophones

Brian Landrus: bass clarinet, baritone saxophone

Brad Shepik: guitar

Jay Anderson: bass

Uri Caine: piano

Matt Wilson: drums

Jerry Leake: percussion

Recorded December 18 – 19, 2014, at Avatar Studios, New York, NY

Recorded, Edited and Mixed by James Farber

Assistant Engineers: Tim Marchiafava &Thom Beemer

Mastered by Mark Wildman

Photos by Ken Schaphorst


We’ve all had our fair share of goodbyes, and if these moments were meaningful, we mulled over how and what we would say or do. Composer and jazz educator Ken Schaphorst— chair of the Jazz Studies and Improvisation Department at the New England Conservatory in Boston—has crafted a sensational largeensemble album with the intriguing title How To Say Goodbye . For this project, Schaphorst assembled a 19-piece big band from former students and mentees to play 10 of his compositions. The result is exhilarating. On the title track, John Carlson’s virtuosic trumpet and a powerhouse closing statement by drummer Matt Wilson provide a glimpse of the excitement that is to come. Later, the superb tenorman Donny McCaslin’s top-of-the-register solo is matched nicely by the soft backing of the band. Trombonist Curtis Hasselbring follows Schaphorst’s delicate Fender Rhodes intro with a solo that begins gently and gradually builds to a crescendo, and McCaslin follows with another boiler. This incredible album even provides a taste of a dance-band feel with “Green City,” Schaphorst’s nod to Boston. Chris Cheek’s gently swinging, highly melodic tenor work could fill the dance floor. This album is a must for big band fans.

Bob Protzman (DownBeat)