Bill Evans Jazz Festival to feature guest pianist, alumni and student performers
Contact: Christina Chapple
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HAMMOND – Southeastern Louisiana University will honor one of its most famous alumni – the late jazz great Bill Evans – with three nights of jazz by a renowned guest pianist, alumni jazz musicians and the Southeastern Jazz Combos.
Richard Schwartz, coordinator of the annual event now in its seventh year, promises three fine concerts during the Bill Evans Jazz Festival, Feb. 18-20.
The festival honors the seven-time Grammy Award winner who is considered the most influential jazz pianist of his generation. Throughout his life, Evans, a 1950 Southeastern graduate, fondly remembered his college years, calling his time at Southeastern the happiest period of his life. He returned to campus for a concert 30 years after his graduation, shortly before his death in 1980.
Headlining the festival with a concert on Feb. 20 is Ellen Rowe and Friends. Rowe has been described as “that rare ‘triple threat’ of pianist, composer-arranger, and teacher” and "a formidable talent poised to take her place among the top jazz artists of today.”
The festival will also feature the Southeastern Alumni Jazz Ensemble on Feb. 18 and Southeastern’s Jazz Combos on Feb. 19. All festival events are free and are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Pottle Music Building Auditorium.
Rowe said that Evans was her first major influence as a jazz pianist.
“His combination of lyricism and swing really spoke to me and felt like a style of playing that I could aspire to without trying to be someone I wasn't at that time,” she said. “I think there was a kind of wistfulness to a lot of his playing that moved me and I also really loved his inventiveness.”
Rowe said she had “the wonderful good fortune” as a student at the Eastman School of Music to play an original composition for Evans when he visited the campus as a guest artist in 1977.
“He was incredibly kind and supportive even though I was so nervous that I don't think I played all that well!” she said.
“Hearing his trio play live was one of the highlights of my musical life,” Rowe said. “The interaction within his trio, how well they played off of each other and communicated musically, is still something I aspire to in my own trio playing. I don't think it is a coincidence that the last drummer in his trio before he passed away, Joe LaBarbera, is one of my favorite drummers to play with as well.”
Rowe has performed at various jazz clubs and concert halls throughout the United States and has toured many parts of Europe and Australia. In 1991 the Ellen Rowe Trio garnered first place in the Hartford CT Advocate Readers’ Poll for Best Acoustic Jazz. In addition to leading her own trio and quartet, she is in great demand as a sideman, performing with a variety of artists including Kenny Wheeler, Ingrid Jensen, John Clayton, Tom Harrell and Jiggs Whigham. She also continues to play classically, recently performing the Stravinsky Piano Concerto with the University of Michigan Wind Ensemble.
Rowe’s compositions and arrangements have been performed and recorded by a wide variety of jazz ensembles and orchestras around the world, including the legendary Village Vanguard Orchestra, the BBC Jazz Orchestra, the U.S. Navy Commodores, the Berlin Radio Jazz Orchestra and the big band DIVA.
Rowe will also perform on Feb. 19 with the Southeastern Jazz Combos. The concert, said Schwartz, “gives our students a chance to shine.” Recognized as one of the area’s most experimental jazz groups, Jazz Combo I includes Corey Reeves, alto saxophone; Thomas Rickerson III, trumpet; Justin Burdette, guitar; Jordan Beard, bass; and A.J. Lassere, drums. Jazz Combo II is made up of Burdette and Beard with Benjamin Livingston on trumpet and Wade Hymel, drums.
The Bill Evans Jazz Festival will open Feb. 18 with a concert by the Alumni Jazz Ensemble. Formed for the 2007 festival, the ensemble includes more than two dozen Southeastern music alumni.
“We have students who recently graduated and alumni who graduated 40 years ago,” Schwartz said. “Many of them are well known as both educators and as performers in the area music scene. The trumpet section is amazing -- and the trombones aren’t too shabby either!”
The alumni will perform 10 tunes, including two works by Evans, “Turn Out the Stars” and “Waltz for Debby.” Both were arranged by alumnus Darryl Jacob, one of the Alumni Jazz Ensemble’s trombonists. They also will perform works such as Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine” and “Too Darn Hot” and Dave Brubeck’s “Crescent City Stomp.”
Alumni Jazz Ensemble members are Ernie Kinkaid, piano; Ethan Leaming, guitar; John Braud, bass; Lloyd Cambre and Shawn Manguno, drums; and Leif Pederson, vocals. Saxophonists are Raymond Danna, Charles “Al” Dranguet, Tren Ingolia, Ray Ingolia Jr., John Lyons, Michael Sambola and Reggie Sanders; on trumpet, Justin Albritton, Lacy Blackledge, Robert Campo, Claire Conti, Blake Daniels, Dominick Messina and Jimmy Weber; and on trombone, Eddie Busch, Darryl Jacob, Gene Lipscomb, David McGovern, Bob Priez, and Lawrence Villalobos.
For additional information about the seventh annual Bill Evans Jazz Festival, contact Schwartz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 985-549-5938.