12th February 2016: Release day for Patrick Cornelius and ‘While We’re Still Young’ feat: Jason Palmer, John Ellis, Nick Vayenas, Miles Okazaki, Gerald Clayton, Peter Slavov and Kendrick Scott.

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While We’re Still Young is as close to a musical self-portrait as I’m capable of creating. It’s simultaneously a multi-generational tribute album, a gathering of close friends, and a starkly personal expression of who I am as an artist and individual.”
— Patrick Cornelius

While We’re Still Young is the sixth and latest album by the critically acclaimed, award-winning saxophonist and composer Patrick Cornelius ​which ​brings together seven of the most accomplished young artists in contemporary jazz in order to breathe life into a suite of new original music inspired by the universally-treasured poetry of English literary icon A. A. Milne.

Cornelius’ personal connection to the sweet, whimsical verses in the timeless collection When We Were Very Young spans several generations. Milne’s classic trove documenting the childhood exploits of his son Christopher Robin were read first by his grandmother to his mother as a baby, and then by his mother to him and his brothers in turn. At the birth of Patrick’s own first child, Isabella, the family’s copy of When We Were Very Young was passed down to him, so that he could continue the tradition. “From the very first time I started reading these poems to Isabella, I remember an instant desire to write music inspired by each individual vignette,” the composer recalls.

Several years later, a commission from Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works program, and a grant from The Doris Duke Foundation helped make that ambition a reality. “My goal for this project was to select a handful of individual poems from When We Were Very Young and write programmatic movements inspired by the imagery that each one evokes using the breadth of my experiences as a musician,” explains Cornelius. “I thought that if I could write music that depicts the essence and mood of Milne’s literary gems, filtered through my own voice as an emergent composer, then the project would be successful. The concept of lineage and emotional inheritance is important to this project, and when I was composing, it was important that listeners hear my musical lineage; my compositional influences.” These influences include historical giants such as Duke Ellington, Gil Evans, JS Bach, Claude Debussy, Wayne Shorter, and Charlie Parker, as well as many of Patrick’s peers, including members of his own octet.

“From the moment I conceived the project, it was obvious whose musical voices I was hearing in my mind’s ear,” Cornelius explains, regarding the easy choice for the musicians who make up the octet featured on this album. “The gentlemen performing this music are musicians I’ve come up with both in college and in New York. They’re also each highly skilled composers; artists whom I could trust to give me good artistic feedback and provide inspiration while I was working through the music.”

Patrick met drummer Kendrick Scott, bassist Peter Slavov, and trombonist Nick Vayenas while attending the Berklee School of Music in Boston and has recorded many albums with the three of them (including several of his previous solo releases) over the past 15 years. Trumpeter Jason Palmer is also an old friend and musical collaborator from Cornelius’ days in Boston. Pianist Gerald Clayton and guitarist Miles Okazaki were classmates of Patrick’s in graduate school, and tenor saxophonist John Ellis was an early inspiration from his first days in New York City. “For a project this personal I needed to surround myself with musicians I could trust as artists, and as people. We are all in this project together, and I think you can hear the camaraderie in the music.”

Cornelius names his suite, and this album, While We’re Still Young, both as obvious tribute to Milne’s treasury, and as an appeal to the listener to remember the joy and wonder of our own youth.