LAWRENCE – Special guests Bobby Watson, Helen Sung and Mike Rodriguez will headline the University of Kansas School of Music’s 43rd Annual Jazz Festival on March 6. Friday's festival will include a concert at 7:30 p.m. at the Lied Center of Kansas that will celebrate the music of Charlie Parker.
For more than 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 a first-rate lineup 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.
Watson, an acclaimed saxophonist, composer, band leader and educator, is widely considered one of the most important jazz musicians of the past four decades, with more than 30 recordings and 100 compositions to his name. He grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, and has been an integral part of legendary bands including Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and his own group, Horizon. He has been the director of jazz studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City for 20 years.
Sung, a pianist/composer from Texas now based in New York City, has worked with such jazz luminaries as Clark Terry, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Terri Lyne Carrington, Wynton Marsalis. Her recordings as a leader include the jazz chart-topping "Anthem for a New Day" on Concord Records.
Rodriguez, a Grammy-nominated trumpeter renowned for his playing and writing, has performed and recorded with Charlie Haden, Maria Schneider, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and others, with additional performances and tours with Clark Terry, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and many others.
Watson, Sung and Rodriguez will perform with the Festival All-Star Big Band and KU Jazz Ensemble I. The Outstanding Festival High School and College Ensembles also will perform short sets at the beginning of the concert. The Festival All-Star Big Band is made up of KU music faculty, guest clinicians and professional Kansas City-based jazz artists. 2019 DownBeat Award winner KU Jazz Ensemble I, directed by Dan Gailey, is the flagship ensemble of the KU Jazz Studies Program.
Admission to this year’s festival evening concert is $22 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. Tickets are available through the Lied Center box office online at lied.ku.edu and in person at the Lied Center.
Following the evening concerts, the music continues with After Hours Jazz Sessions hosted by the Matt Otto Quartet and featuring special guests. Otto, a saxophonist and assistant director of the KU Jazz Studies program, is a prominent Kansas City jazz musician. The performances are from 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. in the All Seasons Den at The Oread, 1200 Oread Ave. Admission is free.
During the day March 6, approximately 40 high school, middle school and college jazz ensembles from throughout the central United States will perform in the Lied Center and in Murphy Hall. Based on performance merit, visiting clinicians will select one group from the big bands and combos that to perform again at the evening concert.