WCSU Jazz Fest to present Stefon Harris, Ralph Peterson’s Aggregate Prime
WCSU music students, faculty also to perform in Western’s 22nd annual jazz festival April 20-22
DANBURY, CONN. — Western Connecticut State University will celebrate its 22nd annual Jazz Fest from April 20 through 22, 2017, as it showcases the artistry of the university’s student and faculty jazz musicians and brings the Berkshire Jazz Orchestra, vibraphonist Stefon Harris and Ralph Peterson’s Aggregate Prime quintet to Danbury for featured concerts.
This year’s Jazz Fest, presented by the WCSU Department of Music with support from the Student Government Association, will showcase the wide-ranging virtuosity in performance and originality in jazz composition of Harris, a four-time Grammy Award nominee, and legendary jazz drummer Ralph Peterson with his newly formed Aggregate Prime group, which released its highly acclaimed first album in 2016. Harris will perform at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 21, 2017, with the WCSU Jazz Orchestra under the direction of WCSU Assistant Professor and Co-coordinator of Jazz Studies Jimmy Greene, a 2016 Grammy nominee for his album “Beautiful Life.” Peterson will perform with Aggregate Prime partners Kenny Davis on bass, Dave Kikoski on piano, Gary Thomas on tenor saxophone and flute, and Mark Whitfield on guitar in the closing Jazz Fest concert at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, 2017.
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. General admission prices will be $20 for the Friday and Saturday concerts; admission will be free for WCSU students with valid ID. The WCSU student Jazz Ensemble, select music faculty and the Berkshire Jazz Orchestra will perform big band music in the opening Jazz Fest concert at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 20, 2017, in the Veronica Hagman Concert Hall. Admission will be $15, or free for WCSU students with ID. Reservations for all concerts are available at www.wcsuvpac.eventbrite.com.
Harris, a native of Albany, New York, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Manhattan School of Music, burst onto the New York City jazz music scene in the 1990s as what the Los Angeles Times described as “one of the most important young artists in jazz.” Recognized for the artistic originality, passion and energy that he brings to his live and recorded performances, he has been bandleader for eight critically heralded albums including the Grammy-nominated releases “Black Action Figure” in 1999, “Kindred” in 2001, “The Grand Unification Theory” in 2003, and “Urbanus” in 2010. His numerous awards as bandleader and vibraphonist include the 2013 Downbeat magazine Critics Poll Prize for Vibes, Debut Artist of the Year recognitions from the Jazz Times and the Chicago Tribune, the Martin E. Segal Award from the Lincoln Center, and multiple honors as Best Mallet Player awarded by the Jazz Times and the Jazz Journalist Association.
Harris has performed across the United States at major concert halls, from Carnegie and Alice Tully halls in New York to the Kennedy Center in Washington and Herbst Theater in San Francisco, as well as internationally in Australia, Brazil, Canada, South Africa and Europe. He has earned renown as a pioneer in contemporary jazz urban music as leader of the band Blackout, and expanded cultural boundaries as co-leader for the 2011 “Ninety Miles” album recorded in Havana in collaboration with David Sanchez, Christian Scott and Cuban pianists Rember Duharte and Harold Lopez-Nussa. His diverse body of work includes recordings with the Classical Jazz Quartet of music by Bach, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky, and tours as sideman with many luminaries in jazz including Joe Henderson, Wynton Marsalis, Lionel Hampton, Kenny Barron, Max Roach, Cedar Walton, Benny Golson, Kurt Elling, Dianne Reeves and Charlie Hunter. His dedication throughout his career to sharing his performance skills and experience as an educator has led him to serve as a faculty member at New York University, director of curriculum development at the Brubeck Institute, and artist in residence, clinician and lecturer at universities and cultural centers nationwide.
Peterson, a New Jersey native, began his career in the early 1980s as a frequent rehearsal substitute for the iconic bandleader Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers. Peterson has recorded 20 albums over the past three decades as bandleader, percussionist and trumpeter for a succession of groups including Volition, Triangular, Fo’tet, Triangular Too and Hip Pocket. He has performed with numerous jazz giants including Walter Davis, Tom Harrell, Branford and Wynton Marsalis, David Murray, Craig Harris, Jack Walrath, Craig Handy, Bheki Mseleku, Courtney Pine, Steve Coleman, Stanley Cowell, Melissa Slocum and Uri Caine. He also has served on the faculties of Rutgers University, Princeton University, Berklee College of Music and the University of the Arts.
His most recent project, Aggregate Prime, brought together a powerhouse quintet of talented jazz musicians for the 2016 release of the album “Dream Deferred,” inspired by the opening line in the poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes, “What happens to a dream deferred?”
“The album speaks to that final question Hughes asks in ‘Harlem’ (‘Or does it explode?’) and whether we as a society are close to answering it,” Peterson said. “The answer is already there in that, if we don’t do the right thing, all of our hopes and dreams will explode.” The notes accompanying the album observed that Peterson “blends the instruments in his ensemble to match the roiling furor” of recent controversies surrounding cases involving police shootings of black civilians, “while ending with the same tone of pointed, yet elegant inquiry culminating Hughes’ poem.”
The WCSU Jazz Fest also provides an important educational experience for music students at Western, as well as students from area middle schools, high schools and colleges that register to participate in Jazz Fest instructional and performance sessions. The annual Jazz Fest master class with visiting guest artists affords the opportunity for students to receive feedback and guidance from professional jazz musicians.
Ticket reservations are available online for Jazz Fest concerts on April 20 at www.eventbrite.com/e/22nd-annual-jazz-festival-featuring-wcsu-jazz-faculty-and-the-berkshire-jazz-orchestra-tickets-32436577677; April 21 at www.eventbrite.com/e/22nd-annual-jazz-fest-featuring-stefon-harris-with-the-wcsu-jazz-orchestra-tickets-32160026505; and April 22 at www.eventbrite.com/e/22nd-annual-jazz-fest-featuring-aggregate-prime-tickets-32332221545.
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.