Students and stars together for Jazz Weekend

Alex Schaaf

This weekend marks the 26th annual Jazz Celebration Weekend at Lawrence, and it certainly promises to be one of the most exciting events of late. Two jazz legends in their own right, vocalist Jon Hendricks and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon will be gracing the stage with their presence.
Friday, Nov. 10 the Lawrence University Jazz Singers will open for – as well as perform with – Hendricks, who will be accompanied by Aria Hendricks and LHR Redux. The next evening will feature Gordon as he performs with the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble, the Faculty Jazz Trio, and the Trombone Choir.
Besides these performances, there will be 45 instrumental and vocal ensembles from high schools and middle schools in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois also participating.
Hendricks, widely known as the “Father of Vocalese,” started his jazz career in 1957 when he formed the famous vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, which performed its vocalese style around the world to much approval.
He was named a NEA Jazz Master in 2003, which is a tremendous honor that awards living legends for their contributions to jazz. Hendricks is coming to Lawrence through the NEA Jazz Masters on Tour.
Chris Salerno, director of the Jazz Singers that are performing before and with Hendricks Friday night, was very excited about the event. “The students are very excited, and working hard,” she said. “John is such a jazz legend, that this is such a wonderful opportunity.”
Jessie Arlen, a member of the Jazz Singers, was equally thrilled. “We are so lucky to perform on the same stage as Jon,” she said. “I think it will definitely be the night of a lifetime for us.”
The Jazz Singers will be performing two songs by themselves and two with Hendricks, one of which’s lyrics were written by Hendricks himself.
Wycliffe Gordon is also a major delight to have on the stage, having received much acclaim for his skills on the trombone as well as in the composing field. Besides his thriving solo career, he also tours as leader of the Wycliffe Gordon Quartet, which is featured at legendary jazz venues throughout the world.
Gordon will perform Saturday evening with the LUJE, the Trombone Choir, and the Faculty Jazz Trio, composed of Lee Tomboulian on piano, Mark Urness on bass, and Dane Richeson on drums.
With the Trombone Choir, Gordon will feature a piece titled “Cliffe Hangin'” which was personally composed for Gordon by Lawrence’s very own professor of music Fred Sturm.
Besides the two performances, there are two new components to the festival. Saturday, the attending school groups will have a buffet at Lucinda’s, complete with live jazz accompaniment by the members of the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity. Then, from 2:30-5:30 p.m. Saturday, Lucinda’s will host “Jammin’ at Lucy’s.”
“This will be an open forum for the school music participants to engage in a friendly and educational jam session with the Lawrence jazz students,” said Sturm.
Five renowned jazz educators from Nebraska, Missouri, Oregon, California and Maryland will lead the student ensembles, along with five Lawrence jazz faculty.
“Our team of educational clinicians is the most diverse group we’ve ever engaged for this weekend,” Sturm said. All in all, the weekend proves to be jam-packed with amazing talent that should not be missed.