By Chris Zuver, Staff Writer
Last week, from April 20 to 22, local jazz bands and combos that traveled from various regional high schools and universities performed at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center for the 2017 Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival. The festival also featured guest artists who performed on both the evenings of April 21 and April 22.
A total of 52 different bands and combos from 45 different schools and universities performed over the course of the three days.
At 8 p.m. on the evening of the April 21, people gathered in the Anheuser Busch Performance Hall to watch jazz trumpet artist Terrell Stafford, trombone artist Wycliffe Gordon, and multi-instrumentalist Chris Vadala, who played a tribute to the late jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong. The three performers were backed by the University of Missouri–St. Louis Jazz Ensemble with director Jim Widner.
Terrell Stafford is a New York-based musician and a diverse player. He has been hailed as “one of the great players of our time, a fabulous trumpet player” by famed pianist McCoy Tyner.
Wycliffe Gordon is another great musical talent, considered one of the top trombonists of his generation and a master of the trumpet plunger mute. Downbeat Critics Poll named him “Best Trombone” for 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016.
Chris Vadala is considered one of the greatest woodwind artists in the nation. He has appeared on more than 100 recordings to date, as well as jingles, film, and television scores, performing on saxophone, flute, and clarinet. He is a saxophone professor, Director of Jazz Studies, and a UM Distinguished Scholar-Teacher at the University of Maryland.
The performance that night included songs from various artists including Sonny Rollins, Duke Ellington, and of course, Louis Armstrong.
The next evening at 8 p.m., people gathered in the same performance hall to see the UMSL Jazz Ensemble, this time with featured trumpet artist Jon Faddis leading. The concert was a celebration commemorating the 100th anniversary of late jazz artist Dizzy Gillespie. Other featured soloists that night included drummer Ignacio Berroa, trombonist Andre Hayward, trumpeter Ricardo Esquilin, and the second appearances of both Chris Vadala and Terell Stafford.
Jon Faddis, an accomplished musician, composer, and conductor, originally studied under Gillespie himself and was friends with the man for over three decades.
The performance on the night of April 22 began with the UMSL Jazz Ensemble covering The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” before Faddis took command and launched into various Dizzy Gillespie numbers and one piece by Benny Golson.
Besides being a diverse and aggressive soloist, Faddis also brought laughs to the crowd by way of his extensive banter and offbeat jokes between songs.
Numbers played that night included famous Gillespie numbers like “Emanon,” “Night in Tunisia,” and “Manteca,” as well as the Benny Golson-written “I Remember Clifford.”
If you missed the festival this year, you can catch it in 2018 when it returns from April 19-21.