September 18, 2008

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Celebrating 30 years of jazz at UNH
Five-month music series begins
By Dana Unger dunger@hippopress.com

The Durham campus of the University of New Hampshire will be awash in the gleam of trumpets, saxophones, trombones and more when the 30th season of concerts in the UNH Traditional Jazz Series begins Monday, Sept. 22, at the Paul Creative Arts Center.

The yearly music fest, started in 1979 by Dorothy Prescott and the UNH music department, has featured several prominent figures of jazz throughout its history, including Doc Cheatham, Benny Carter, and the Artie Shaw Orchestra.Kicking off the five-month music series will be Massachusetts’ own New Black Eagles Jazz Band. The band was an easy choice for Dave Seiler, director of Jazz Studies at UNH.

“The Eagles were here in 1980 as part of the first season,” Seiler said. “They’re a mainstay of the series and the perfect opening group for this milestone.”

A fixture on the international jazz scene for 37 years, the New Black Eagles have honed their traditional New Orleans sound and have amassed an impressive repertoire of more than 600 ragtime, spiritual, gospel, blues and old pop numbers. In addition to their Big Easy sound, the seven-piece ensemble also covers the early 1920s Chicago style and 1930s small-band jazz. The group has played some of the most renowned festivals, including the St. Louis Ragtime Festival, Tanglewood, The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and with such respected ensembles as the Scottish National Orchestra, The Boston Pops, and The Limburg Symphony.

“We try and keep our program diverse,” Seiler said. “Of course we have traditional jazz, but we also showcase more experimental performers and singers as well. Jazz isn’t about definition. It’s an evolutionary language that everyone can enjoy.”

Five other concerts will round out the UNH series. On Monday, Oct. 13, acclaimed tenor saxophonist Harry Allen and others will recreate the unique four-saxophone sound from the Woody Herman band of the Stan Getz era. Allen’s music has earned him Gold Disc Awards from Japan’s Swing Journal Magazine and he’s performed with such legends as Rosemary Clooney, Herb Ellis and Gus Johnson and has recorded with Tony Bennett, James Taylor and Sheryl Crow.

In a big band performance, Bob Wilber, a distinguished clarinetist and soprano saxophonist, will play the series on Monday, Nov. 10. Wilber’s career has spanned seven decades, influenced by the classic jazz of Benny Goodman and Sidney Bechet (from whom Bob took lessons).

On Monday, Feb. 2, New Hampshire native and vibraphonist Ed Saindon teams up with the versatile soprano saxophonist and composer Dave Liebman, bassist Dave Clark and drummer Mark Walker. As a concert artist and clinician, Saindon has traveled throughout the U.S., Europe, Brazil, Mexico and Japan. He has played and recorded with Dave Liebman, Kenny Werner, Ken Peplowski, Fred Hersch, Peter Erskine and John Scofield.

Russell Malone appears with his quartet on Monday, March 2. Largely self-taught, Malone’s technique and versatility in the swing, bebop and blues idioms make him a sought-after musician by many major jazz figures including Harry Connick Jr., Natalie Cole, Benny Green and Diana Krall.

“One of the goals when the series began was to expose young, intelligent musicians to the community,” Seiler said. “Musicians like Russell really keep the spirit of that goal a continuing focus for the program.”

The jam-packed series wraps up on Monday, April 13, with Bria and Jim’s Borderline Jazz Band. This group features trombonist Jim Fryer and Canadian trumpet sensation Bria Skonberg. Other New England favorites appear as well including banjoist-vocalist Jimmy Mazzy and clarinetist John Clark.

All concerts begin at 8 p.m. and will be held at the Johnson Theatre inside the Paul Creative Arts Center at 30 College Drive, Durham. General admission tickets cost $8 each, $6 each to students and seniors, and are available at the UNH Memorial Union Building ticket office and online at www.unhmub.com/ticket.