Everyone knows Memphis is the home of the blues, but jazz has an important place in the city’s history as well. This year’s “Jazz Week,” hosted by the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music, takes place on the U of M campus until March 4 and features performances by student musicians, faculty musicians and special guest players.
The weeklong event is an old tradition, according to Jack Cooper who is an associate professor and jazz and studio music area coordinator at the U of M. He also will be playing in the Faculty Jazz Ensemble Thursday night.
“Jazz Week has been going on since the late 60s,” Jack Cooper said. “It’s a tradition at the University of Memphis.”
In fact, some of the music to be performed during Jazz Week is written by former U of M students who have played Jazz Week in the past. A few of these former U of M student jazz musicians include Donald Brown, James Williams and Mulgrew Miller.
“We have guys who have made it big,” Cooper said. “There’s a long tradition of jazz musicians in Memphis.”
Jazz Week 2017’s special guest players include trombonist Chris Buckholz and trumpeter/composer Bill Mobley. Buckholz has performed with the likes of Tony Bennett and Smokey Robinson, and he is also the first trombonist to have released both a classical and jazz solo CD.
Mobley, originally from Memphis, has credits on records by Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra, James Williams and even Public Enemy. He has recorded many big band CDs in New York for Spacetime Records and was director of the Smoke Big Band on Monday nights at Smoke Jazz Club in Manhattan.
Memphis’ history of jazz music dates back to the late 1900s, according to Cooper. The “Brass Notes” of famous jazz players such as W.C. Handy, Jimmie Lunceford as well as Phineas Newborn and his brother Calvin Newborn can be found on Beale Street.
Jazz Week is also an important part of the university’s history, according to Cooper.
“It’s a great way to showcase the jazz division in the school of music,” he said.
Four different jazz combos kicked off the week with a joint performance at the Harris Concert Hall Tuesday, but there are still plenty of performances left to see. On Wednesday, the U of M Jazz Singers will perform in the Harris Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m. Chris Buckholz and pianist Artina McCain will also be playing in the Psychology Auditorium at the same time.
Buckholz will also perform with the Faculty Jazz Ensemble Thursday night. The U of M Jazz Ensemble II performs Friday night, and the Southern Comfort Jazz Orchestra with Bill Mobley performs Saturday night. All will take place in the Harris Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m. on their respective dates.
The performances are all free, with the exception of Saturday’s Southern Comfort Jazz show. General admission will be $15 and $10 for senior citizens. However, the show will still be free for U of M students and faculty.
“I’m excited,” Taylor Griffis, 19-year-old jazz and studio performance freshman, said. “I’m looking forward to seeing all the bands play. I love jazz.”