Jim Duff, a native of Newfoundland, Canada, holds a Diploma of Fine Arts from the University of Calgary, Alberta, a Bachelor of Music from Berklee College of Music, Boston, Massachusetts, and a Masters of Music from North Texas State University in Denton, Texas.
Jim has acted as instructor in trombone, Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Band Arranging, North American Popular Music, and Instrumental Teaching Methods at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Other musical activities include conducting and adjudicating both locally and nationally, and clinics in arranging and concert / jazz band technique. He has served for many years as musical director, performer, composer / arranger, and sound consultant for many CBC radio and television series and specials, and has acted as leader of his own big band for concerts and numerous other occasions. For the past fifteen years, Jim has worked closely with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra as composer, arranger, and conductor for their annual Gala and Pops concerts.
He has received awards from MUSICNL, Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters, and the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra. Jim has been awarded commissions by the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, the Atlantic Arts Trio, the Memorial University String Quartet, Kenneth Knowles (associate professor / trombone, Memorial University of Newfoundland), the Avalon East District Honours Band, the Arnprior District High School Band (Ontario), the Henry Gordon Academy (Labrador), the Newfoundland Symphony Youth Choir, the Memorial University Concert Choir, Lady Cove, Cantus Vocum, the Quintessential Vocal Ensemble, Holy Heart of Mary High School Chamber Choir, IXM Divine Ryan’s Inc. (movie), Fortis Inc. (East of Canada), Canada Winter Games (opening ceremonies), The Newfoundland Government / CBC (Soiree ’99), Cabot 500th Anniversary, and CBC national radio (Sunrise Celebration). His compositions and/or arrangements have been performed by symphony orchestras and concert bands in both Canada and the United States, and several of his concert band compositions and arrangements have been published and distributed worldwide by Alfred Publishing Company and Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
Jazz Mass description
The CD consists of a 37 minute Jazz Mass and a 5 minute piece called Beatus (Beatitudes). The Mass includes 55 performers (a jazz ensemble, woodwinds, strings, SATB choir, and soloists). The personnel for the project were drawn from members of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, the Quintessential Vocal Ensemble, and other notable musicians in the community. The two primary instrumental soloists are John Nugent and Patrick Boyle. Beatus includes vocal soloists Jane Leibel and Jonathan Reed, the choir, rhythm section, and instrumental soloist Bill Brennan.
The idea to compose a Jazz Mass originally stemmed from the improvisational possibilities over the modal scale element found in Gregorian Chant. Since the use of modes as a basis for less restrictive improvisation led to the production in 1959 of the most popular jazz recording in history (Kind of Blue – Miles Davis), this concept provided a firm foundation for the composition. From this initial idea, it seemed a logical progression to present a survey of as many established jazz styles as would allow in an expanded work. The styles include basic Blues Swing, Jazz Waltz, Bossa Nova, Fusion (Jazz/Rock, Latin Rock, Funk), and odd time signatures popularized by notable groups such as The Dave Brubeck Quartet.
Also, the inherent contrast of moods in the Mass text further strengthened a resolve to proceed ¬-- from the determined confirmation of the Credo and jubilant Gloria to the plea for mercy of the Kyrie and Agnus Dei, and the implied reverence of the Sanctus/Benedictus. The Ite Missa Est (the Mass is ended) was an afterthought and was included for two reasons. First, the Agnus Dei ended on a less than exuberant note, and it was felt the composition required an uplifting reprise. Second, none of the previous movements included the most basic of jazz styles – Blues Swing.
Finally, both the innate rhythmic aspects of the latin text and the contrast between traditional classical and jazz genres helped to foster a determination to compose a major work of this sort.