DANBURY, CONN. — Western Connecticut State University will celebrate two decades of bringing elite performers of the jazz world to Danbury as it presents the 20th annual WCSU Jazz Fest from April 23 through 25, 2015, featuring concert performances by National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Kenny Barron and Jimmy Heath.
This year’s Jazz Fest will celebrate the rich musical legacy of two artists who came of age several decades apart on the vibrant jazz scene of Philadelphia and shared a common mentor in the legendary trumpeter and bandleader Dizzy Gillespie. Barron, an acclaimed jazz pianist since the 1960s and bandleader who has released more than 40 recordings, will perform with the WCSU Jazz Orchestra at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 24. Heath, whose remarkable career as saxophonist, bandleader, composer and arranger spans seven decades and more than 100 recordings, will appear with the Jimmy Heath Big Band at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 25.
Both performances will be in the Veronica Hagman Concert Hall of the Visual and Performing Arts Center on the WCSU Westside campus, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury. Admission to the Friday concert will be $20, with a fee of $10 for seniors, students with valid ID and children under 12. Admission to the Saturday concert will be $50, with a fee of $20 for students with valid ID. Reservation information is available at (203) 837-TIXX and at www.wcsu.edu/tickets.
Western music faculty and select student performers will present ensemble sets featuring jazz classics and original works in the opening Jazz Fest concert at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 23, in the Veronica Hagman Concert Hall. Admission will be free and the public is invited to attend.
Barron was honored by the NEA in 2010 as a Jazz Master Fellowship recipient for his “exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz.” He has been named six times as Best Pianist by the Jazz Journalists Association and inducted into the American Jazz Hall of Fame. He received the Living Legacy Award from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation and Lifetime Achievement Award from the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs.
His long career has brought critically acclaimed performance and recording collaborations with many jazz greats including Freddie Hubbard, Buddy Rich, Yusef Lateef, Ron Carter, Stan Getz, Gary Bartz, Charlie Haden and Dave Holland. He led the Sphere quartet in the 1980s with Buster Williams, Ben Riley and Charlie Rouse in recordings of compositions by Thelonious Monk. He has earned numerous Grammy nominations for works including “People Time,” “Night and the City,” “Wanton Spirit” and “Freefall,” and has been described by Jazz Weekly as “the most lyrical piano player of our time.” From 1973 to 2000, he mentored emerging jazz artists as a music faculty member at Rutgers University.
“Kenny Barron’s playing is a sublime mix of lyrically constructed lines, a daring harmonic approach, and an unbelievable groove to his eighth notes,” observed Jamie Begian, chair of the WCSU Department of Music and co-coordinator of jazz studies. “Everything about his playing makes sense in the best possible way. Having our students work with him will be an experience of a lifetime, and I am very excited to have Kenny perform with our Jazz Orchestra this year.”
Jimmy Heath, who received the NEA Jazz Master Fellowship in 2003, hails from a family of jazz greats who have frequently performed as an ensemble including his brothers, bassist and fellow NEA Jazz Master Percy and drummer Tootie, and his son, percussionist and composer Mtume. In addition to Gillespie, colleagues such as John Coltrane, Benny Golson, Miles Davis, Milt Jackson and Art Farmer influenced his early development as a saxophonist and bandleader and his emergence as one of the most accomplished jazz composers of the past half century. Beginning with classics such as “Gingerbread Boy” and “CTA,” he has composed more than 100 original works that have become standards in the jazz repertory. Heath published his memoir, “I Walked with Giants,” in 2010, and has shared his experience with new generations of musicians as an educator at Jazzmobile, Housatonic Community College, City College of New York and Queens College.
“Jimmy Heath is one of the true giants of the jazz tradition,” Begian said. “As a saxophonist and as a composer, Jimmy is synonymous with creativity, integrity and utmost dedication to craft.”
Begian recalled that he was deeply impressed by Heath’s generosity during his previous Jazz Fest visit to Western in 2008, sharing his experience and mentoring with Western jazz students and donating the original music performed at the festival to the university’s library. “His writing is as unique as his playing,” Begian noted, “and hearing his music performed by his own band will be a special evening for all.”
For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.
Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.