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Students get lesson in playing with jazz greats

By Laura Wilson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 15, 2005
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After only four weeks of classes, students in music professor Jeffrey Haskell's Jazz Ensemble are facing one of the biggest tests of their lives, and more than grades are at stake. The class, composed of the top student jazz musicians in the School of Music, will be participating in "Jazz at the AZHarmonic." The event, organized by Haskell, incorporates an impressive roster of jazz icons that will open the event and then play with the students.

Jazz greats Warren Vache, Wycliffe Gordon, Pete Christlieb, Ross Tompkins, John Heard and Jake Hanna were all invited to play at the UA by Haskell with help from School of Music Advisory Board member Al Cook and his wife Marilyn Cook. Now in its third year, "Jazz at the AZHarmonic" materialized from the desire to have a campus event that would coincide with the jazz festival held in Oro Valley every year.

"This year, Al and Marilyn (Cook), who are absolute jazz lovers, are hosting a party Friday night at the Hilton," Haskell said. "Instead of just inviting the musicians to come for the Oro Valley event, they had the band members come in early so the university community could benefit."

The selected musicians form a powerhouse group. Although they have not performed together on a regular basis, as individuals they have recorded and played with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Rosemary Clooney.

Haskell and the Cooks hope that not only will the audience benefit from the performers appearing at Crowder Hall, but that students will as well. After the visiting musicians perform as an ensemble, they will join the music 400R class to play solos. Although the students are eager to make music alongside their idols, they are also a little more than intimidated.

"I'm really excited. We're going to be on our toes and we're going to be nervous. We're bringing in [saxophonist] Pete Christlieb to play, and he's one of my idols," said Brandon Thibault, music senior and tenor sax player.

The opportunity to perform with musicians of such caliber is a dream come true for graduate student Dara McMains, who is attending the UA to study trombone performance.

"It's going to be a ride," McMains said. "We get to play with a lot of people who we may not get to again. We just have to hang on and hope we don't play in the rests."

As far as only having a month to prepare for the event, McMains is not worried.

"That's just part of doing what we do. We practice our butts off so we can be prepared," McMains said.

Each of the musicians, who Haskell refers to as the "best in America," will be returning to campus tomorrow morning in order to give master classes and clinics for students in the School of Music, as well as community members. The classes and clinics will be free of charge and open to the public.

"If anyone felt they wanted to come and take a look at any of these gods of jazz in America they could come by and watch them in action," Haskell said.

"Jazz at the AZHarmonic" will take place tonight in Crowder Hall at 7:30. Tickets are $9 for general admission, $7 for UA employees and seniors (55+) and $5 for students. For more information, call the Fine Arts Box Office at 621-1162.

Master Classes and Clinics will be held on Friday from 11 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. Warren Vache will be in Holsclaw Hall, Ross Tompkins & John Heard will be on the Crowder Hall Stage and Jake Hanna will be in Music building Room 170. At noon, Wycliffe Gordon will be in Music building Room 170 and Pete Christlieb will be on the Crowder Hall Stage. They are open to the public and free of charge.

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