Chicago jazz man Jim Gailloreto is the first performer to take over the Getty Villa’s Outer Peristyle Garden in nearly 20 years.
And his west coast premiering his modern jazz work, “The Pythiad,” to boot.
“It’s a great pleasure to have a musician of Jim’s caliber, who is highly regarded in the Chicago jazz scene, perform this wonderful piece of music inspired by the gorgeous surroundings of the Villa,” says Ralph Flores, J. Paul Getty Museum theater program specialist who organized what is anticipated to be the first of many annual music and theater performances in the lush Roman-style garden.
Surrounded by hedge-lined pathways, bronze statues and the large reflecting pool at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Gailloreto will lead his Jazz String Quintet and guest vocalist, Cheryl Wilson, through a jazz song cycle each of whose nine movements is the story of a different Greek character.
“There’s a little bit of a twist in the way the Pythia sings to the audience because she’s a therapist talking about her patients, and there’s no shortage of dysfunction in Greek characters,” he says. “So there’s a lot to sing about.”
Gailloreto had Wilson (with whom he worked during the ’80s and ’90s heyday of commercial music in Chicago) in mind when he created the piece.
But he was inspired by an appearance he made at the Getty several years ago with Chicago jazz musician Patricia Barber, who was there to perform songs from her 2006 album, “Mythologies.” Wanting to tell the story of lesser-known Greek heroes and heroines, he turned to his son, 25-year-old writer Coleman Gailloreto, to create lyrics for his blended compositions of jazz, classical and pop.
“My son has laid it out beautifully,” Gailloreto says. “His interest was finding characters whose stories are compelling but have a connection in our culture.”
Stories include Caeneus, who was born female but asked Poseidon to turn her into a man and in that form became a great warrior. Menoeceus sacrifices himself to the god of war to bring an end to the civil war that has ravaged his city of Thebes.
“The Pythiad” made its debut at the Constellation in Chicago last August before a crowd of about 200.
The Getty Villa concert is its maiden voyage.
As part of the special evening event, concertgoers can purchase wine and Mediterranean bites and (included with the $25 ticket purchase) browse the museum’s galleries, including the latest exhibition “Roman Mosaics Across the Empire.”
“Before the Villa reopened 10 years ago, we used to have musical and theater performances in the Outer Peristyle Garden,” Flores says. “It’s exciting to have the opportunity to bring back this tradition to the Villa again.”