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Swing Era Tribute Kicks Off 29th Season for UNH Traditional Jazz Series

September 12, 2007

The Traditional Jazz Series kicks off its 29th season Monday, September 17, at Johnson Theatre when Ed Polcer and his All-Star Sextet will present a tribute to three brilliant musicians of America’s Golden Age of Swing—Lionel Hampton, Red Norvo and Bunny Berigan.

It could be said that in 1935, America’s Golden Age of Swing was born. Benny Goodman’s performances for capacity crowds of swing-dancers at Los Angeles’ Palomar Ballroom were broadcast on the radio to an audience hungry for this exciting dance music. Carnegie Hall and Town Hall presented spectacular jam sessions. Radio broadcasts from New York’s Swing Street sent the sounds of the Count Basie Orchestra nationwide. America was swinging.

Hampton helped launch the Swing Era as a key member of Goodman’s small ensembles in the late 1930s. Adept on both vibraphones and drums, Hampton led his own high-energy band in the 1940s.

Trumpeter Berigan played in the Paul Whiteman, Tommy Dorsey and Goodman bands and formed his own band in 1937. His exciting, beautifully crafted solos made for many hit recordings including his own “I Can’t Get Started” and Dorsey’s “Marie.” Norvo introduced the vibraphone to jazz in the 1920s and played with many jazz giants including Goodman, Berigan, Paul Whiteman, Woody Herman and Charlie Barnet. His own trio of the late 1940s included Tal Farlow and Charles Mingus.

Cornetist Ed Polcer (see photo) was fortunate to have played with both Norvo and Goodman, and is one of the most sought after performers on the jazz festival circuit. Joining Polcer in this all-star sextet will be Ken Peplowski, clarinetist and saxophonist extraordinaire, who has played with a broad range of musicians including Goodman, Mel Torme, George Shearing, Sonny Stitt, Leon Redbone and Madonna. Also performing in Polcer’s sextet will be Dion Tucker on trombone, John Cocuzzi on piano and vibraphone, Frank Tate on bass, Joe Ascione on drums and vocalist Judy Kurtz.

Five additional concerts round out the 2007-2008 Traditional Jazz Series. On October 15, vocalist Sheila Jordan will appear along with trumpeter Dave Ballou. Jordan’s imagination, eloquence, virtuosity and expressivity have been legendary since mid-century. She studied with Lennie Tristano and Charles Mingus, and is one of a tiny handful of jazz vocalists who truly deserve the appellation.

Young vibraphonist Stefon Harris and his group Blackout will appear November 19. Harris, one of the most creative bandleaders of his generation, has studied the legacies of jazz masters such as Armstrong and Ellington, and through them sees his own place and responsibilities as a jazz musician in forging a unique identity. Prepare to be impressed!

On February 4, Boston-area pianist Tim Ray will perform a solo concert. Ray has appeared at Johnson Theatre several times, most recently in last year’s Marshall Wood/Donna Byrne concert, and has impressed audiences with his virtuosity, sensitivity and inventiveness. His impressive faculties justifiably earn him a spot on the distinguished roster of solo pianists preceding him at UNH.

Saxophonist Scott Robinson returns to Durham on March 10. A personal favorite of Dorothy Prescott, founder of the Traditional Jazz Series, Robinson masterful command of the wide range of historical saxophone styles is matched only by his multi-instrumentalism. Proceeds from this concert will benefit the Tom Gallant Scholarship Fund.

The Onyx Club Sextet led by Wayne Roberts concludes the 2007-2008 series on April 14. Bassist John Kirby formed a sextet in the 1930s to feature a unique brand of jazz that at times integrated ethnic and classical elements. Kirby’s scores for this ground-breaking group are brought to life again with a vibrant mixture of tightness and spontaneity. Don’t miss this one!

All concerts begin at 8 p.m. and are held at the Johnson Theatre, Paul Creative Arts Center. Tickets are $8 each; $6 to students and seniors. Season tickets are $40. Tickets are available at the MUB Ticket Office and at the door one hour prior to the concert. You may also order tickets online at http://www.unh.edu/mub/ or call 2-2290 for more information.

The Traditional Jazz Concert Series is co-sponsored by the music department and the New Hampshire Library of Traditional Jazz. The library, established in 1978 by Dorothy Prescott, comprises books, recordings, and memorabilia and is housed at the UNH Dimond Library. Prescott's generous endowment funds its activities including the Traditional Jazz Series concerts.

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