Congratulations are in order for Collin College’s Professor and Director of Jazz Studies Kris Berg and his band, Kris Berg & The Metroplexity Big Band, which is on a Grammy ballot in four categories for their new CD, “This Time/Last Year.”

The categories are: 

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album: “This Time/Last Year” – Kris Berg & The Metroplexity Big Band.

Best Instrumental Composition :”This Time/Last Year” – composer, Kris Berg

Best Instrumental Arrangement:  “Night Dreamer” – composer, Wayne Shorter; and arrangement by Kris Berg

Best Jazz Improvisational Solos: “Forgotten Thoughts” by Wayne Bergeron; and “Night Dreamer” by Clay Jenkins 

Between teaching Collin College students about the intricacies of jazz and performing with his band, Cougar News was able to catch up with Berg for a brief Q&A. Berg discusses everything from his reaction to being named on four Grammy ballots and the creation of the Kris Berg & The Metroplexity Big Band to how the success of his band can be used as a teaching tool for his jazz students.

What was your reaction to learning that you were on four Grammy ballots?  

It was quite exciting.  I joined the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) specifically so I could vote this year. Getting the ballot in the mail and then seeing my name and the name of the band listed in several categories was exhilarating!

How was the Kris Berg & The Metroplexity Big Band jazz band created?  

Kris Berg & The Metroplexity Big Band is a 17-piece band I put together two years ago specifically to record my compositions and arrangements. As a composer and arranger, I have been publishing music played by others for more than 20 years now.  It was time to record something of my own and this CD is that something.

I have worked with most of these players in different bands, went to school with, etc.  They are all wonderful at what they do.  Kent Ellingson, Kevin McNerney and Micah Bell are all adjunct professors here at Collin College. We also have four special guest artists: Wayne Bergeron, Delfeayo Marsalis, Clay Jenkins and Chris Vadala. These are all internationally known jazz performers who have become friends of mine over the past 20 years and we were very excited that they wanted to record with us.

In January your band is scheduled to perform during the Jazz Education Networks International Conference, what will this experience be like?  

The Metroplexity Big Band was set up primarily as a recording band, but a couple of opportunities have become available for us to perform and a few more are in the works. Unless a benefactor comes along, I don’t see any summer tours happening, but you never know.  Performing at the JEN conference is a great honor and we are thrilled to close down one of the main evening concerts.  Attendance at the conferences is in the thousands and it will be an extremely jazz educated crowd, being that most of the attendees are professionals, educators or big fans of jazz music.

In terms of a teaching mechanism, what type of message does the success of your jazz band send to your students?  

I think it’s important for educators in general, but in the arts especially, to stay current and active.  This CD release is the equivalent to a showing at a major art gallery, the publishing of a book or premiering as the lead in a professional theater production.

Looking ahead, what does the future hold for this jazz ensemble?  

Our second CD is due out in 2014.  We are half recorded now and will do a few more sessions next year to finish it up.  It’s already sounding as amazing as this first recording. We have some surprise guests too!

Do you have any last thoughts about your band’s CD?

The CD is getting wonderful reviews.  Russ Nolan of MOJA Radio states, “Kris Berg & Metroplexity brings big band into the 21st century!”  That’s one of my favorites.  You can also find online reviews at “All About Jazz” and “JazzTimes,” two very respected Websites. By the way, the CD is available in all the usual outlets, but especially personally from me at .

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