MSM Jazz Orchestra presents U.S. Premiere of The Paul Klee Project by Jim McNeely

On Monday, March 27 (7:30 & 9:30 PM) at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and on Thursday, March 30 (7:30 PM) at Manhattan School of Music's Neidorff-Karpati Hall, the Manhattan School of Music Jazz Orchestra will perform the U.S. premiere of The Paul Klee Project, composed and conducted by award-winning composer and member of the MSM Jazz Arts faculty, Jim McNeely.

Jim McNeely drew inspiration for the project from eight early-20th-century paintings by artist Paul Klee and recorded the compositions in 2006 with the Swiss Jazz Orchestra, who commissioned them. The MSM Jazz Orchestra will be the first to perform the Paul Klee Project in its entirety in the U.S.

"I began to get interested in 20th-century painting when I was a teenager, " said McNeely. "One of the painters with whom I felt the strongest connection was Paul Klee. When George Robert [an MSM alumnus], musical director of the Swiss Jazz Orchestra, asked me to write an album's worth of music based on Klee's paintings, I jumped at the chance."

To McNeely it seemed that "some of his paintings could be 'heard' as well as seen. It was as if Klee was painting music." Some of Paul Klee's paintings incorporate musical symbols; others have musical titles such as Fugue in Red or Nocturne for Horn. In fact, Klee had spent his early years studying violin before he began painting in his teens.

Using a 16-piece jazz orchestra, McNeely sought to express the essence of eight of Klee's paintings in music. "Each painting presents a different palette and different rhythms; a different atmosphere and a different inner being, " said McNeely. "Each one sang to me immediately. Gradually I started to sing back, and found music emerging."


Paukenspieler (The Kettle Drummer)
Der Seiltänzer (The Tightrope Walker)
Büste eines Kindes (Bust of a Child)
Rosenwind (Rose Wind)


Übermut (Exuberance)
Ad Parnassum (To Parnassus)
Tod und Feuer (Death and Fire)
Individualisierte Höhenmessung der Lagen (Individualized Measurement of Strata)



Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, Monday, March 27, 7:30 & 9:30 PM

Tickets at or 212.258.9595

MSM's Neidorff-Karpati Hall, Thursday, March 30, 7:30 PM

FREE, no tickets required

Press information: Caryn Toriaga,, or (917) 493-4429


Jim McNeely's reputation as a composer/arranger and conductor for large jazz ensembles continues to flourish and has earned him nine Grammy nominations. His work includes projects with the Danish Radio Big Band (where he was chief conductor for five years), the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, the Metropole Orchestra (Netherlands), the Swiss Jazz Orchestra (Bern/Zürich), WDR Big Band (Cologne), and the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra. He is currently artist-in-residence with the HR Big Band (Frankfurt). In 1996 he rejoined the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra as pianist and composer in residence. His latest album with them is Up from the Skies on the Planet Arts label. The New York Times has called his writing "exhilarating." Downbeat has said that his music is "eloquent enough to be profound."

Born in Chicago, Jim McNeely moved to New York City in 1975, having received a Bachelor of Music degree in composition from the University of Illinois. In 1978 he joined the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. He spent six years as a featured soloist with that band and its successor, the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra (now the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra). In 1981 Jim began his four-year tenure as pianist/composer with the Stan Getz Quartet. From 1990 until 1995 he held the piano chair in the Phil Woods Quintet. At the present time, he leads his own tentet and trio and appears as guest soloist at concerts and festivals worldwide.

Jim has recorded a number of albums – trio and quartet – under his own name. He has also appeared as a sideman on numerous recordings led by major artists such as Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Stan Getz, Bob Brookmeyer, David Liebman, and Phil Woods. He is Musical Director of the BMI Jazz Composers' Workshop. In addition, he has appeared at numerous college jazz festivals as performer and clinician and has been involved regularly with summer workshops such as the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Clinics, the Lake Placid Seminar in Jazz Improvisation, and the William Paterson University Summer Jazz Workshop. He has also conducted clinics and had major residencies at dozens of institutions in the U.S., Canada, Europe, China, and Australia. Jim McNeely has been a member of MSM's Jazz Arts faculty since 2008.


Manhattan School of Music is one of the first conservatories in the United States to acknowledge the importance of jazz as an art form by establishing undergraduate and graduate degree programs in jazz. The program, developed under the leadership of eminent jazz artist and educator Justin DiCioccio, is one of the richest of its kind, combining systematic and rigorous conservatory training with a myriad of performance and networking opportunities in New York City. In addition to a variety of small combos, student ensembles include the Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Concert Jazz Band, Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Philharmonic, and Chamber Jazz Orchestra. Incoming Jazz Arts Director Stefon Harris (BM '95, MM '97) will continue the program's mission: to prepare students to perform, compose, and teach with equal facility and passion.

In addition to studies with our expert faculty, students are provided additional opportunities to play for and observe world-renowned guest artists. Master classes in recent years have been presented by Stefon Harris (vibraphone), Maria Schneider (composition), Vijay Iyer (piano), Lee Konitz (saxophone), Dave Liebman (MSM Artist in Residence, saxophone), Jason Moran (MM '97, piano), Christian McBride (bass), Jimmy Heath (tenor saxophone), Jon Faddis (trumpet), Gary Burton (vibraphone), and Wycliffe Gordon (trombone). Every concert season, prominent guest artists are featured with our large ensembles, providing enriched performance experiences for students. Guest artists have included Jane Monheit (BM '99), Candido, Dave Liebman, Randy Weston, Jon Faddis, Paquito D'Rivera, Joe Lovano, Bob Mintzer, Randy Brecker, Roberta Gambarini, and Judi Silvano.


Founded as a settlement music school by Janet Daniels Schenck in 1918, today Manhattan School of Music is recognized for its more than 950 superbly talented undergraduate and graduate students who come from more than 50 countries and nearly all 50 states; a world-renowned artist-teacher faculty; and innovative curricula. The School is dedicated to the personal, artistic, and intellectual development of aspiring musicians, from its Precollege students through those pursuing postgraduate studies.

Offering classical, jazz, and musical theatre training, MSM grants Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees, as well as the Professional Studies Certificate and Artist Diploma. Additionally, true to MSM's origins as a music school for children, the Precollege program continues to offer superior music instruction to young musicians between the ages of five and 18. The School also serves some 2, 000 New York City schoolchildren through its Arts-in-Education Program, and another 2, 000 students through its critically acclaimed Distance Learning Program.

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