Monheit, Wheeler to perform at Jazz Weekend

Sarah Page

The 25th annual Jazz Celebration Weekend will take place Friday and Saturday at Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The two headliners for the celebration, vocalist Jane Monheit and trumpet soloist Kenny Wheeler, are both highly acclaimed musicians.
Monheit grew up in a musical family from Long Island. Her Ella Fitzgerald record collection led to an interest in jazz that she finally pursued at the age of 20 in 1998, when she was awarded second-place honors at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. Now, at the age of 27, Monheit’s talent has brought her far in only seven years.
When her second album, “Come Dream With Me,” was released in 2001, it reached the number-one spot on the charts, just three short years after her big break into the jazz world. Monheit’s “Taking a Chance on Love,” reached the Billboard top 10 jazz chart and hasn’t been dropped since its release in 2004. Monheit has performed live at many jazz festivals such as the Monterey Jazz Festival, and has also performed at Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center and London’s Royal Festival Hall.
Kenny Wheeler, whose main influences include Miles Davis and Fats Navarro, has made more than 20 recordings over the years and is still recording. His newest CD, released in 2005 and called “What Now,” includes the musical talents of bassist Dave Holland, pianist John Taylor and tenor saxophonist Chris Potter.
Not only is Wheeler a fabulous performer, but a highly regarded composer as well. He is especially well known for his works for jazz orchestras and larger ensembles. He also teaches music at an annual jazz workshop at The Banff Centre, Canada’s leading center for culture and the arts.
“I first heard the music of Kenny Wheeler 30 years ago,” Lawrence jazz director Fred Sturm said. “Enamored with the freshness and the sheer beauty of his recordings, I dissected Kenny’s improvised solos and transcribed his tunes. When I began teaching, his compositions became regular fixtures in my university classes and ensemble performances.” Wheeler and Sturm have collaborated in the past and will have the opportunity to do so again Saturday evening.
Although the headlining performances are the main attractions of Jazz Weekend, the main purpose is to educate students about jazz music. Over 40 high school and middle school jazz ensembles from the Midwest will participate in educational workshops between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday.
Jazz Weekend was started with the hope of bringing professional jazz artists and music professors to campus to help encourage a noncompetitive jazz environment at Lawrence and throughout the Midwest.
The clinicians for this weekend’s events include Michele Weir, the vocal jazz director at UCLA; Clay Jenkins, a jazz professor at the Eastman School of Music in New York; Steve Sveum, the instrumental music teacher from Wisonsin’s own Sun Prairie High School, which has been a national finalist at the “Essentially Ellington” jazz festival at the Lincoln Center for several years; Matt Harris, the director of jazz studies at California State University, Northridge; and Jennifer Scovell, the vocal jazz director at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, Minn.
Tickets for the performances are available at the Lawrence University Box Office.