"joyously iconoclastic"    - Keyboard Magazine
 
New York composer-pianist Kirk Nurock is refreshingly hard to pin down. He orchestrated for Dizzy Gillespie, Leonard Bernstein and Meredith Monk, composed a work for 20 voices and 3 canines which he conducted at Carnegie Hall, and won a scholarship at age 16, awarded by Duke Ellington.   The New York Times summed it up, "Mr. Nurock has unique credentials."
 
 
Visit Bravo Network's portrait of Nurock:     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRkWfZyYP5U&list=PL4E443CDE134CBDF3&index=7

 
"Nurock is a musical eccentric. 
A boy genius of the jazz piano, he grew up to get his master's in composition
from Juilliard and to orchestrate and compose for Broadway, TV and films.
His eccentricity comes out in his passion for writing works like Sonata for Piano and Dog."

- Philiadelphia Daily News

 

A child prodigy, Nurock [b. 1948, Camden, NJ] was honored with the first Duke Ellington Scholarship to the Eastman School's Arrangers' Lab. He was presented the award by Ellington himself.  Nurock holds a Master's degree in Composition from Juilliard, where his teachers included Vincent Persichetti, Hall Overton and Luciano Berio. Additional studies in jazz composition were with Johnny Richards, Manny Albam and Rayburn Wright.

As a young jazz pianist, Nurock "sat in" with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker and Phil Woods. During college years, working in the Catskill Mountains he accompanied icons of an earlier era including Billy Eckstine and Cab Callaway. He went on to arrange and conduct on Broadway, while producing "downtown" concerts of his own works.

In the 70’s Nurock formed the Natural Sound Workshop. Called “an inspired creation” by the New York Times, Natural Sound was an innovative vocal technique exploring the myriad sounds of untrained voices. Nurock’s chorus of 25 toured and performed his carefully-layered works which featured cackles, moans and gibberish. Of it Lukas Foss wrote: [quote to be located]. Nurock's works for the ensemble often featured pioneering vocalist Jay Clayton.

In the 1980’s Nurock began exploring “cross-species communication,” creating instrumental and choral works with sea lions, wolves, a screech owl and a Siberian tiger. Works from this period include The Bronx Zoo Events (1980), Sonata for Piano and Dog (1983) and Expedition, for Siberian Husky and Jazz Trio (1984). A video-documentary, “Animalsong,” directed by Burrill Crohn, chronicles these works and the pieces appeared in national press and television.

Nurock is grateful to the numerous performers who have interpreted his compositions &/or arrangements.  Among them...

Nat Adderley, Aaron Alexander, Ashford and Simpson, Bertilla Baker, Art Baron, Kenny Barron, Gary Bartz, Yolande Bavan, Jane Ira Bloom, Theo Bleckmann, Randy Brecker, Tom Briggs, Cameron Brown, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Ann Hampton Callaway, Jay Clayton, Eric Cohen, Burt Collins, Judy Collins, Marion Cowings, Claire Daly, Eddie Daniels, John DeRobertis, John D'earth, Les DeMerle, Mark Dresser, Marty Ehrlich, Kevin Eubanks, Soren Fischer, Al Foster, Frank Foster, Mark Freeh, David Friedman, Laurie Frink, Dizzy Gillespie, Martina Gebhardt, Chris Gekker, Ronnie Gilbert, Eddie Gomez, Jerry Granelli, Urbie Green, Miles Griffith, Jim Hall, Chico Hamilton, Frederic Hand, Tom Harrell, Bryant Hayes, Ratzo Harris, Billy Hart, Mark Helias, Fred Hersch, Shelley Hirsch, Jeff Hirschfield, Don Hulbert, Dick Hyman, Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta, Hank Jones, Shelia Jordan, Donald Joyce, Kim Kalesti, Val Kilmer, Kyoko Kitamura, Frank Kimbrough, Bob Kindred, Bill Kirchner, Kyoko Kitamura, Skip LaPlante, Arnie Lawrence, Mort Lindsay, "Buzzy" Linhardt, Amy London, Patti LuPone, Meridian Arts Ensemble, Chuck Mangione, Steven Margoshes, Charlie Mariano, Kate McGarry, Bette Midler, Ben Monder, Tony Moreno, Diane Moser's Composers Big Band, Bob Moses, Jon Nelson, New World Symphony under Michael Tilson-Thomas, David "Fathead" Newman, Judy Niemack, Warren Odze, Odetta, Rufus Reid, Chapman Roberts, J.D. Parran, Rich Perry, Anne Phillips, Marie-Claire Picher, Bobby Previte, Tom Pierson, Dina Paisner, Raymond Patterson, Jeanfrançois Prins, Jim Pugh, Bernard Purdie, Mike Richmond, Roger Rosenberg, Ned Rothenberg, Michael Sahl, Michael Schiefel, William Schimmel, Andreas Schmidt, "Doc" Severinsen, Kendra Shank, Don Sickler, Arvel Shaw, Janis Siegel, Rich Siegel, Sean Smith, Marvin Stamm, Lew Soloff, Charles Sullivan, Lois Svard, Bill Takas, David Taylor, Clark Terry, Gary Tigerman, Nurit Tilles, Dave Tofani, Adam Unsworth, Jack Walrath, Cedar Walton, Bennie Wallace, Kenny Werner, Allen Won, Reggie Workman, Joe Wilder and the animals of the Bronx Zoo.

 
Recording Session at Van Gelder Studios

 
          Ensemble for forthcoming "Kirk Nurock Songbook" CD 
(L to R) Bob Kindred, Theo Bleckmann, Judy Niemack, Cameron Brown, Nurock, Miles Griffith, Janis Siegel, Billy Hart. Not shown: Jeanfrançois Prins, Don Sickler.  At Rudy VanGelder Studios in Teaneck, NJ 




 
          Other projects over the decades

 
In 1985, Nurock composed a jazz musical combining many of his prior interests. Mowgli, based on Kipling’s Jungle Books, was written in collaboration with legendary theater director, Tom O’Horgan and lyricist C.J. Ellis. The score is a tour de force, blending jazz harmonies, scat singing, animal sounds, lyrical Broadway melodies and world-music elements. Mowgli was produced at the American Music-Theater Festival in Philadelphia and the Judith Anderson Theater in New York.

Another large-scale work was Listening Back (1988), for Orchestra, Chorus, Narrator, four canines and eight guinea pigs. the piece has a text by playwright Sheldon Rosen, and was written on a Composition Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

In 1990, Nurock formed a duo with pioneering vocalist Theo Bleckmann. They recorded and toured extensively in the US and Europe. The repertoire was mostly Nurock compositions, and Bleckmann’s remarkable gifts as both balladeer and contemporary sound-explorer blended with Nurock’s rich pianism. Two beautiful CD’s document their work (“Theo & Kirk” and “Looking Glass River” [Traumton CD-2402, 2412]).

In 1993, Nurock was appointed Professor at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin. In Europe he performed, recorded and toured as pianist in various groups, and conducted numerous Big Bands. Among his frequent collaborators were vibist David Friedman, vocalist/lyricist Judy Niemack and Belgian guitarist Jeanfrançois Prins.

Nurock returned to New York in 1998, where he now composes, performs and records. He is proud to have rejoined the faculty of the New School For Jazz and Contemporary Music.

In earlier years, Nurock arranged and conducted Broadway musicals including first productions of works by Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz and Galt MacDermot. His pop orchestrations accompanied Bette Midler, James Taylor, Judy Collins, and a Woody Allen film. He orchestrated a jazz opera by Nat and Cannonball Adderley produced at the Kennedy Center.  He worked with distinguished theater directors Arthur Laurents, Tom O'Horgan, Des MacInuff and Alvin Epstein.

Nurock's scores have accompanied choreography by Roland Petit, Anna Halprin, Daniel Nagrin, Louis Falco, Kathryn Posin and Judith Marcuse. He wrote numerous "incidental" scores to off-Broadway productions at Circle-In-The-Square, LaMama Etc., NY Shakespeare Festival and Yale Repertory Theater. 

Some of the many sides of Kirk Nurock can be heard on ABC Paramount, Adamo, Angel, Capitol, Channel Crossings, Columbia Masterworks, Digital Music Products, Earplay, Environments, Fusion, Impulse, Jazz4ever, KochJazz, Labor, Newport Classics, Pool, Saturndisc, Sunnyside, TelArc, Traumton, Tzadik, United Artists and Wergo records.

His music has been published by Schirmers, Chappell, Schott, Traumton Musikverlag, Brassworks Unlimited, his own Unrock Music, and his current publisher, Don Sickler's Second Floor Music.

Interviews and articles have appeared in Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of American Composers, The World Book Encyclopedia, Downbeat, Keyboard Magazine, The New York Times and New York Magazine. He has been interviewed by Nicolas Slonimsky, Studs Terkel, Leonard Altman, Bryant Gumbel, Arlene Francis and the Voice of America. He received the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Prize in chamber music, the Duke Ellington Scholarship, and fellowships from the NEA and NYSCA. He served on the advisory board of Meet The Composer and as Music Director for Ensemble Studio Theater.

Nurock works have been performed at Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Lukas Foss' "Meet The Moderns" at Brooklyn Academy of Music, Merkin Concert Hall, Symphony Space, The Juilliard School, Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Kitchen, Knitting Factory, The Stone, New Music America, American Dance Festival and Zankel Hall. They have been broadcast on WNYC, WKCR radio and NBC, CBS, Bravo and WNET television.

A dedicated educator, Nurock has given workshops and residencies at The Juilliard School, Yale University, New York University, Bennington College, American Association of Music Therapists, American Dance Festival, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center and Hanns Eisler Hochschule für Musik.
 
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