LAWRENCE - The University of Kansas School of Music proudly presents the 39th Annual KU Jazz Festival concerts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 4 and Saturday, March 5 in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union. This year’s concerts feature special guest artists Walter Smith III, saxophone (March 4) and drummer Matt Wilson (March 5). Both concert events are open to the public.
The March 4 concert features tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III with the KU Jazz Festival All-Star Band. Smith is a rising star saxophonist, composer and educator who has several critically acclaimed recordings with his own group. With his fresh sound and compelling original compositions, Smith is consistently called as a sideman in some of jazz’s most important contemporary bands, including those led by Ambrose Akinmusire, Christian Scott and Sean Jones. The KU Jazz Festival All-Star Big Band is comprised of KU School of Music Faculty, guest clinicians at the KU Jazz Festival, and professional jazz artists from throughout the United States. Big band arrangements of Smith’s compositions have been written especially for the occasion by faculty and students from the KU Jazz Studies Program.
The March 5 concert features drummer Matt Wilson with KU Jazz Ensemble I. Based in New York, Grammy nominee Wilson is one of today’s most celebrated artists, and is universally recognized for his musical and melodic drumming style, as well as being a gifted composer, bandleader, producer and teaching artist. Wilson leads several of his own groups, is an integral part of bands led by Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Lee Konitz and many others, and has appeared on over 250 CD recordings as a sideman. KU Jazz Ensemble I is the flagship ensemble within the KU Jazz Studies Program, and was named the winner of the graduate large ensemble division of the 2015 DownBeat Student Music Awards. The Jazz Studies Program overall has been the recipient of 22 DownBeat Awards since 1992.
For nearly four decades, the KU Jazz Festival has been one of the focal points for jazz performance and education in the central United States, providing the region an opportunity to hear and learn from world-class jazz musicians and educators. The evening concerts feature first-rate lineups of some of the most important and exciting musicians in the world of contemporary jazz, and daytime clinics and master classes allow students and community members to interact with world-famous jazz musicians outside of the concert hall.
The evening concerts will begin with the Outstanding High School Ensemble (March 4) and the Outstanding College Ensemble (March 5). During the day, approximately 50 high school, middle school and college jazz ensembles from throughout the central United States perform in Murphy Hall. Based on performance merit, visiting clinicians will select one group from the big bands and combos that perform each day to perform again on the evening concert. Revolving trophies will be presented to the middle school, high school and college outstanding ensembles. These trophies will stay with the recipients until next year’s 40th Annual KU Jazz Festival, when they will be presented to the 2017 Outstanding Ensembles.
Tickets for each concert are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $10 with a KU ID. Tickets can be purchased at the KU SUA office or by calling 785-864-7469.
Following the main stage concerts at Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union, the music will continue with the KU Jazz Festival After Hours Jazz Sessions, held at the All Seasons Den at The Oread (1200 Oread Avenue, Lawrence, KS), from 10:00 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. both evenings.
These jazz sessions will feature performances by the Matt Otto Quintet with special guest Dave Scott, trumpet. Otto, a saxophonist and member of the KU Jazz Studies faculty, is one of the most prominent musicians in Kansas City. He is joined both evenings by four in-demand Kansas City-area musicians—T.J. Martley, piano; Danny Embrey, guitar; Jeff Harshbarger, bass; and Brandon Draper, drums - all members of the KU Jazz Studies faculty. Trumpeter Dave Scott, an award-winning player with a wide range of professional experience who has worked with some of the greatest jazz artists in the world, will join the quintet both evenings.
Admission to these sessions is free; a cash bar will be available. Valet parking at the Oread is available for $5.00.