on image for publication quality photo
Left, Kenny Werner; right, Bill Evans
as a Southeastern student.
BILL EVANS FEST HONORS SOUTHEASTERN
HAMMOND -- Southeastern Louisiana
University will honor the late seven-time Grammy Award winning jazz pianist
Bill Evans at the second annual Bill Evans Jazz Festival, March 4-6.
The three-day tribute to the
1950 Southeastern graduate will showcase the Kenny Werner Trio, the Southeastern
and Mandeville High School jazz ensembles, and the jazz quartet AZQ, said
festival organizer Allen Zurcher, Southeastern’s director of jazz studies.
The festival opens on March 4 with
a 2 p.m. presentation about Evans by former Southeastern music professor
and KSLU general manager Ron Nethercutt. The presentation is scheduled
for the Music Recital Hall.
While on the Southeastern faculty,
Nethercutt, a trombonist who is now on staff at the University of the Philippines,
amassed an archive of Evans material and memorabilia, which is housed at
the university’s Sims Memorial Library. Nethercutt also produced “Homecoming,”
a recording of Evan’s November 1979 concert at Southeastern’s Pottle Music
Building Auditorium, which was released by Milestone Records.
Nethercutt said his presentation
will focus on Evans’ recording with some background on the highs and lows
of “Homecomings’” release.
Also on March 4, Zurcher’s jazz
quartet will perform at 7:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall. Composed of Zurcher
on saxophone, Danny Acosta on guitar, John Palensky on bass and John Wooton
on drums, the group will play works by Evans as well as other jazz greats.
The 19-member Southeastern Jazz Ensemble,
directed by Zurcher with Nethercutt as one of the guest soloists,
will pay tribute to Evans on March 5 with a 7:30 p.m. concert in the Music
Recital Hall. The ensemble will be joined by the Mandeville High School
Jazz Ensemble, directed by Paul Frechou.
The festival will conclude
with a concert at 7:30 p.m. March 6, in the Pottle Music Building Auditorium
featuring the Kenny Werner Trio. Werner will also present a master class
at 2 p.m. March 5 in the Music Recital Hall.
Werner is an accomplished pianist
who has won renown both as a pianist of extraordinary skill and sensitivity,
but also as a teacher with a rare gift for inspiring students to more expansive
expression of their musical selves. He began performing at age of four
and, by age 11, had appeared on television. While at the Manhattan School
of Music he became restless with his musical direction and began to explore
jazz as a new means of creativity and expression.
Along his musical journey, he
was inspired by masters of the craft to rethink not only the technical
aspects of creativity, but also the spiritual aspects. His book, “Effortless
Mastery,” is an insightful guide for all those wishing to remove their
own barriers to creativity in life and the arts.
Born in Brooklyn in 1951, Werner
had a classical piano training, but came to be influenced by jazz greats
such as Evans, Keith Jarrett, and Dave Brubeck. He has released more
than 15 albums, including “A Delicate Balance” with bassist Dave
Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette. He has also played and recorded with
the likes of Joe Lovano, Archie Shepp,Toots Thielemans, and Tom Harrell.
Southeastern organized the first
Bill Evans Jazz Festival in 2002 with a grant from the Louisiana Division
of the Arts. One of the festival’s highlights was the unveiling of an Evans
mural, “Turn Out the Stars” by Edward Pramuk, commissioned for the Music
Recital Hall. This year’s festival was also funded in part by a Louisiana
Division of the Arts grant.
“In letters to his Southeastern
professors years after he graduated, Bill Evans expressed his deep appreciation
for their patience, perseverance, and personal attention,” Nethercutt said.
“When he returned to his alma mater 30 years after graduation, he told
the audience that his last two years at Southeastern had been the happiest
of his life.”
Southeastern named Evans its first
“Alumnus of the Year” in 1969. He died in 1980.