Nova in the Media

Nova Contemporary Jazz Orchestra

Larry McDonough occasionally plays in Nova, and played on the title track and on two other tracks on Nova Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, “A Time of Reckoning.” Here are some Nova reviews.

“Concerto for Big Band" written for Nova by Kenton and Ellington Orchestra alum W. A. Mathieu

Nova Celebrates 20th Anniversary

"A Time of Reckoning"

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“Concerto for Big Band" written for Nova by Kenton and Ellington Orchestra alum W. A. Mathieu

The Big Gigs for week of March 22

The Nova Contemporary Jazz Orchestra pulls off another coup, premiering the “Concerto for Big Band,” a k a the “Concerto Nova,” penned for the group by the mercurial, eccentric, often brilliant composer-arranger William Allaudin “Bill” Mathieu. Known for his chart-writing for Stan Kenton and Duke Ellington while still in his early 20s, Mathieu was also the first music director of fabled Chicago improv troupe Second City. Nova leader Mike Krikava established a fertile working relationship with the California-based composer a few years back, which led to Nova premiering other vintage charts of his on a 2011 album. Besides the six-movement concerto, this concert will feature a slew of Mathieu pieces, including work done for Kenton and the Duke. (7 p.m. Sun., Studio Z, 275 E. 4th St., Suite 200, St. Paul. $10.) Surowicz

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The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Live Jazz, March 22-28
Published: 2013-03-22

Sunday, March 24.
One of the area's premiere big bands, the Nova Jazz Orchestra will perform at Studio Z,  premiering the “Concerto for Big Band" written for Nova by Kenton and Ellington Orchestra alum W. A. Mathieu. In addition to the six-movement jazz suite, other Mathieu works in the program will include music he wrote especially for the Stan Kenton and Duke Ellington Orchestras. A rare opportunity to see a big ensemble in this intimate space.

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Rhythm and Grooves
Sunday, March 24
Nova Jazz Orchestra @ Studio Z, Saint Paul. 7pm. ($10) The 19 piece big band will be premiering WA Matheiu’s six-movement suite, Concerto for Big Band. Matheiu wrote and arranged for Stan Kenton, Duke Ellington, Maynard Ferguson, and others. Mathieu previously collaborated with Nova on the CD “Double Feature,” featuring 14 previously unrecorded orginals by Matheiu.

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Nova Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Nova Contemporary Jazz Orchestra Celebrates 20th Anniversary, November 11th at the Artists Quarter
By Ronaldo Oregano  
Thursday, 08 November 2012

One of the premiere jazz orchestras in Minnesota, the Nova Contemporary Jazz Orchestra (NCJO) will celebrate its 20th anniversary on Sunday, November 11th, at the Artists Quarter. The free party and music get underway at 7 pm. Nova will play some old favorite from the past 20 years as well as some exciting new music.

The idea for the band came about in 1991, when Rose Lewis and Mike Krikava felt the need for a band that could perform new and home-grown Minnesotan big-band music. The solution? Start a new band! Early in 1992, the first rehearsals of the “Novy Jazovy Orkestr” (a Czech inspiration, meaning “New Jazz Orchestra”) were convened in a local band room. Today, Mike Krikava leads Nova in performances throughout the metro area and beyond; the band had a long-running monthly gig at the Shorewood in Fridley through winter 2012. Performers include sax players Bob Byers, Kari Musil, Sten Johnson, Paul Peterson, and Bill Burton; trumpeters Pete Davis, John Ahern, Tim Martin, and Graham Martin; trombonists Mike Larson, Chris Wiley, Craig Lawless, and Ike Wagner; and a rhythm section of Larry McDonough on piano, John Hyvarinen on guitar, Dave Perry on drums, and Pete Karstad on bass.

Sponsored by the nonprofit Nova Jazz Corporation, Nova plays many original and commissioned pieces for jazz big band, with many by band members and Minnesota composers, including Dan Cavanagh, Steve Devich, John Guari and Greg Stinson. A recent project was a recording of the unrecorded arrangements (and originals) of William “Bill” Mathieu, originally written for Stan Kenton in the late 50s. The resulting CD, Vol. 2-Double Feature, was so well received by Bill Mathieu himself that he was motivated to write an original work specifically for the NCJO. The result is Concerto Nova, a six-movement work. Nova is currently rehearsing this new music, and the composer Bill Mathieu is directly involved in fine-tuning the composition. Nova intends to perform and record Concerto Nova.

“I find that I am 20 years older and that the Nova Jazz Orchestra has been together for 20 years,” says Krikava. “I have no idea where the time has gone but I couldn’t be happier that Nova has thrived for this long. The Nova Band has been playing original and new music for 20 years now. We have 10 CDs of all original music under our belt and two new projects in the hopper.”

The Artists Quarter is located at 408 St Peter Street in the lower level of the historic Hamm Building in downtown St. Paul; Nova is a tax-exempt non-profit and accepts donations but a donation is not required. More about the Nova Contemporary Jazz Orchestra at

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The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, November 9-15
By Andrea Canter

November 11
Down the street, and starting a couple hours later [7:00 pm], it’s a 20th Anniversary Party for the acclaimed Nova Classic Jazz Orchestra at the Artists Quarter. This big band has built its repertoire via member compositions and commissions, meaning they play a unique book of music as well as new arrangements of the great jazz orchestras. There’s no cover, making this the best jazz bargain of the week.

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St. Paul Pioneer Press,
Entertainment best bets for Nov. 9-15
By Dan Emerson

Jazz Nova Contemporary Jazz Orchestra
Sunday [November 11]: One of Minnesota's longest-standing big bands is having one of its occasional reunions . Trombonist Rose Lewis and saxophonist Mike Krikava formed the group in 1991 to provide a vehicle for new "Minnesota-grown" big band compositions. The 18-piece orchestra has produced 10 CDs and has two new projects in the pipeline. Sunday's concert will consist of both old and new material, according to leader Krikava. 7 p.m.; Artists' Quarter, 408 St. Peter St., St. Paul; no cover, $5 suggested donation; 651-292-1359 or

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Star Tribune
The Big Gigs for week of Nov. 9
By Tom Surowicz

There are Minnesota big bands with a higher profile than the Nova Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, but when it comes to ambition and achievement, Nova ranks second to none. No local band is blessed with so many fine in-house composers, with trumpeter John Ahern and saxophonists Kari Musil and Bob Byers leading the pack. Nova has eight CDs of almost entirely Minnesota-generated compositions, plus a recent CD focusing on unrecorded works of fabled Stan Kenton Band composer/arranger Bill Mathieu. The group, led by baritone sax man Mike Krikav, celebrates its 20th anniversary with a no-cover gig -- but since Nova is a tax-exempt nonprofit, you can offer congratulations with a donation. (7 p.m. Sun.[November 11]: , Artists' Quarter.)

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A Time of Reckoning

Larry played on the title track and on two other tracks on Nova Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, “A Time of Reckoning” available from CD Baby and ITunes

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All About Jazz
Nova Jazz Orchestra, A Time of Reckoning, NJO 2010
By Jack Bowers

If the premise that experience is the best teacher is indeed accurate, one need look no further than the Minnesota-based Nova Jazz Orchestra for proof. Nova, sponsored by the non-profit Nova Jazz Corporation, has been together for more than 15 years, and its recordings (A Time of Reckoning is the seventh) keep getting better and better as the ensemble gains maturity and awareness.

Even though only five members of the current orchestra performed on its debut album, In Walked Wendy, in 1995, the advantages of continuity are clear throughout its latest enterprise, from the thunderous introduction to the orchestra's high-flying "Tribute to Francy Boland" to the last notes of Greg Stinson's enchanting jazz waltz, "A Dream of Hungarian Lanterns." Sandwiched between are shapely compositions by Paul Peterson ("FEETS," "Granicus," "Grumbalambasamba"), John Ahern ("Francy Boland," "W. 7th"), Bob Byers ("Copperhead"), Steve Devich ("North Star") and Dan Cavanagh ("Gozar," "A Time of Reckoning"). Timpanist Dave Perry sets the scene on "Boland" on which he and drummer Kevin Dammen sit in for the Clarke-Boland band's Kenny Clarke and Kenny Clare.

The ensemble is supple and swinging on every number, the soloists sharp if not spectacular. The rhythm section is unswerving, and Nova doesn't overpass the value of color and dynamics. At least eight of the ten compositions and arrangements are by present or former members of the orchestra. As a rule, they are more challenging than the material embodied in Nova's previous albums. Trumpeters Ahern and Tim Martin and alto saxophonist Byers are among the holdovers from Wendy; the others are saxophonist Mike Krikava and lead trombonist Mike Larson.

Guest soloists Dave Hagedorn (vibes) and Dave Marden (flute) are out front and pleasing on "W. 7th" (with its random echoes of Freddie Hubbard's "Up Jumped Spring"). Hagedorn is impressive again on "North Star" (a charming tribute to Nova's home state) and "Granicus," Marden likewise on "FEETS" and "Granicus" (flute and piccolo). The ensemble's capable soloists include tenors Peterson and Paul Burton, pianists Larry McDonough and Bruce Pedalty, trumpeters Sten Johnson, Adam Meckler and Tom Krochock. The trombone section (Larson, Larry McCabe, Ike Wagner and Chris Wiley) is showcased on the Latin-hued "Grumblambasamba."

Playing time is generous, and while recording quality isn't always keenly defined it's never less than passable. A Time of Reckoning is another sizable step forward for the Nova Jazz Orchestra, which continues to reap benefits from its stability and experience.