Henry Wolking henry.wolking@music.utah.edu

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IN SEA New jazz big band album by Henry Wolking featuring the Salt Lake City Jazz Orchestra with guest soloists; David Halliday, Kris Johnson, Greg Floor and Kevin Stout. Now available on Big Round Records.

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HENRY WOLKING BIOGRAPHY

Floridian Henry Wolking—composer, trombonist, conductor, teacher, and author—spent his college years at the University of Florida in the horn line for a soul band, touring the “juke joints” of the black backwaters of northern Florida. He completed a Master of Music degree, studying composition with Martin Mailman, at the University of North Texas in 1971. At the age of twenty-four, he began his teaching career as head of the jazz area at the University of Utah. 

He won second prize in the International Trombone Composition Contest in 1973, the beginning of his successful, consistently productive career as a serious composer. Among his numerous published jazz compositions for big band, several were performed and recorded by the North Texas One O’Clock Jazz Band. His Woodwind Quintet No.1 was recorded by the Clarion Wind Quintet in 1976 for broadcast on National Public Radio and Voice of America and is available on Crystal Records. Since the early 1980s, Wolking has received premieres of many orchestral works, including his Symphony No. 1, Lydian Horizons, by the Utah Symphony (premiered in 1982), a work which achieved semifinalist status in the Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards. His Horn Concerto was recorded and broadcast by the New Zealand Symphony in 1985; some of the orchestras performing and recording his works since that time include the London, Utah, New Mexico, Baltimore, Phoenix, Colorado Springs, Nashville, Fairbanks, North Carolina, and Cincinnati Symphonies; the Louisville Orchestra and the BBC Jazz Orchestra; and the Boise and Warsaw Philharmonic.

His Chamber Concerto for Horn, Violin and Bassoon won first place in the 1987 International Horn Composition Contest; his second symphony, Saturnian Verses, was a finalist in the 1991 ASCAP Nissim Awards. In 1992, his ballet score, entitled Forever Yesterday, was broadcast on National Public Radio’s Performance Today. The Modern Art Sextet in Berlin, Germany, performed House of Sky, released on CRS, in 1989. 

Among the several compact discs featuring Wolking’s music is the “Music of Six Continents” Series presenting two single-movement works for symphony orchestra: Methenyology and A Luta Continua. Pangaea for symphony orchestra, a programmatic representation of continental drift, was nominated for a 1994 Grammy Award and is recorded on CRS. Reaching, commissioned by the Chilean chamber music group Ensemble Bartok, has been recorded by the Canyon Lands Chamber Ensemble and released on the Centaur label, along with Wolking’s arrangements of Gershwin for two pianos and voice. 

Wolking’s catalogue encompasses over twenty compositions for orchestra, including two four-movement symphonies, a ballet, eight concertos, four fantasies, five jazz works, a tango and a fanfare. His continual immersion in a wide variety of musical styles (as a performing trombonist), and his tireless advocacy for new music in the Great Basin and Pacific Northwest make him a viable composer, vital to the arts scene in the Western United States.

 As implied by their titles, many of Wolking’s orchestral works carry associations with the landscapes of Utah and surrounding area: Goblin Valley (1988), commissioned by Christopher Wilkins for the Utah Symphony, refers to a state park in southern Utah on the eastern edge of the San Rafael desert. Bear Songs of 1993 was for the Bear Lake Music Festival on the border of southeastern Idaho and northeastern Utah. Others reflect the jazz and big band heritage which informs most of what he writes: “Lyric” for a Jazzman (1988) and Methenyology (a reference to contemporary jazz guitarist Pat Metheny) were both commissioned by Christopher Wilkins for the Utah Symphony; Blues Fantasy was commissioned by the same conductor for the Colorado Springs Symphony. Wolking is a person deeply inspired by the outdoors and natural environment, and grounded in a huge, practical jazz tradition.

 A trombonist and prolific, highly diverse composer who recently retired from The University of Utah’s School of Music after nearly 40 years, Henry Wolking has found creative inspiration in writing for every imaginable type of large and small ensemble in classical and jazz music. His prodigious orchestral output includes symphonies, fantasies and an overture as well as eight concertos featuring various soloists such as jazz quartet, trombone, flute, heckelphone, bassoon, contrabassoon, two pianos and horn. Major music outlets have published more than 50 of his jazz and brass chamber ensemble works. His catalogue of orchestral, band and jazz ensemble works also is offered through his own company, Wolking Music Publication.

His ballet ‘Forever Yesterday,’ scored for chamber orchestra and based on Native American themes, was commissioned by the Barlow Foundation in 1992 and was featured on National Public Radio’s ‘Performance Today.’ He also has received commissions from the Utah Arts Festival, the Chile-based ‘Ensemble Bartok,’ Fairbanks Symphony and many other ensembles and musicians.

A native of Orlando, Florida, Wolking enjoys bringing complex, sometimes seemingly disparate mixes of compositional elements to music that becomes easily approachable for listeners who appreciate its sincere, fresh cosmopolitan character.  The gifts of polyrhythms, melodic chorales, and unmistakable grooving inflections of jazz are treated with the same deep sense of artistic integrity and respect as are fanfare motifs, classic musical forms such as waltzes and tangos, the folk sounds of Central and Eastern Europe, and Afro-Cuban rhythms that infuse his various works. He also composed the theme music for the International Sports Broadcasting in connection with the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Utah Symphony has premiered several of his works, including a trombone concerto and ‘Lydian Horizon,’ his first symphony that also was a semi-finalist for a Kennedy Center Friedheim Award in the 1980s. His music has been performed and recorded internationally by many groups including the Warsaw Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, New Zealand Symphony, and the BBC Jazz Orchestra.

An alumnus of The University of Florida and North Texas State University, he is a nationally known music educator, who also has written extensively about jazz theory for many scholarly music journals.

His first all jazz big band recording, IN SEA is now available Big Round Records.

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