News release
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Contact: Christina Chapple
Date: 2/13/04
 
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Left, Kenny Werner; right, Bill Evans as a Southeastern student.
BILL EVANS FEST HONORS SOUTHEASTERN ALUMNUS
      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.