Jazz Lab Band to perform April 11 concert

Gary Smulyan
Gary Smulyan

Director Rodrigo Villanueva and the Northern Illinois University Jazz Lab Band will perform their last concert of the spring 2011 semester at 8 p.m. Monday, April 11, in the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall of the Music Building

The band will perform an eclectic and dazzling program featuring the strong incisive sounds of baritone-saxophonist Gary Smulyan, five-time winner of the Down Beat Magazine Readers Poll. The concert is free and open to the public.

Monday’s concert will include music by some of the greatest jazz composers, such as Duke Ellington, Benny Golson, Sammy Nestico, Hank Levy, Randy Brecker, Herbie Hancock, Joey Sellers, Victor Feldman, Jimmy Rowles, Charlie Gray and Les Hooper.

Villanueva said the 2011 edition of the NIU Jazz Lab Band has many promising young musicians, combining the experience of graduate students Daniel Lopatka and Evan King with the talent of a new breed of talented undergraduate students who already are seasoned players, such as upperclassmen Dan Henson, Ron Jacoby, Matt Judson, Jonathan McQuade, Jim Schram, Kyle Stephens and Alex Willhite, and freshman- and sophomore-level students Leif Anderson, Ivan Arden, Michael Backer, Robert Cooper, Kristen Gaskey, Kenneth Leftridge, Matt Lyons Willie Mariani, Gerald Williams and Andrew Szymanek.

NIU Jazz Lab Band
NIU Jazz Lab Band

The young musicians are getting ready to record their first album at the end of the semester. The band also regularly participates in jazz festivals and competitions, and performs at least six concerts per academic year.

Last spring, the Lab Band was featured at the Illinois Music Educators Association All-State Conference and,  for the second time, won first place in the College Jazz Big Band division at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Jazz Festival.

Smulyan has recorded and performed worldwide with Freddie Hubbard, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Ray Charles, B.B. King, and Tom Harrell. Cedar Walton, George Coleman, Joe Henderson, Joe Lovano, Tommy Flanagan, Chick Corea, Diana Ross, Clark Terry, Kenny Wheeler, Charles McPherson, James Moody and Slide Hampton among others.

In 1978, he was asked to join Woody Herman’s Young Thundering Herd. In 1980, he moved back to New York to join the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra led by Bob Brookmeyer.

He currently performs with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the Joe Lovano Nonet, the Dave Holland Octet and Big Band, the Three Baritone Saxophone Band, the George Coleman Octet, the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band and the Tom Harrell Octet as well as his own projects.

He also teaches at Amherst College.

The group has performed with several international artists, including Allen Vizzutti, Stephen Anderson, Jangeun Bae, Craig Butterfield, Robert Chappell, Fareed Haque, Liam Teague, Art Davis, Kelly Sill, Steve Duke, Stefan Karlsson, Tom Garling, and Wayne Bergeron.

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