New York-based saxophonist and composer Ethan Helm makes music that flirts with the boundaries of familiarity in jazz and concert music, creating points of sound where diverse traditions become inseparable. Ethan is involved in a variety of musical communities, leading his own quartet and co-leading the jazz quintet “Cowboys & Frenchmen,” as well as a composing and arranging for jazz ensembles, indie rock groups, and dance. He has performed at the Umbria Jazz Festival, the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, and throughout the United States and Canada. He was awarded 2nd place in the North American Saxophone Alliance jazz competition and will return in 2016 as a featured artist. In June 2015 he released an album of compositions and free improvisations for quartet, “The Spoon.” Ethan grew up in a musical family in Southern California, and holds degrees Eastman School of Music and New York University.
The Glorious Train Ascending is an attempt to translate the rhythmic vitality of the jazz tradition’s greatest contributors to the realm of the symphony orchestra. These rhythms have always captivated me with their transcendently beautiful mystery, similar to John Milton’s imagery of creation in “Paradise Lost,” from which poem this piece derives its title. The piece moves through a series of episodes that expand upon forms developed by Count Basie, Charlie Parker and Thad Jones from the big band tradition to Tony Williams’ nebulous, exuberant metric modulations in Miles Davis’ quintet in an effort to bring a personal language, rooted in the rhythmic traditions and techniques of jazz, to the symphony orchestra in a way that may look vastly different on the page, but captures their spirit in performance.