WMU News

Free 'listen and learn' minifestival about jazz

Jan. 23, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- From scat to swing and bop to funk, jazz music will take center stage at the upcoming minifestival at Western Michigan University.

"Jazz: It Swings and Pops," the Exposition VI minifest, will blend lectures with live performances to both educate and entertain audiences Friday and Saturday, Feb. 2 and 3, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall. Events begin at 7:30 p.m. each night and are free and open to the public.

Jazz music has attracted new interest recently, in part due to the controversy surrounding filmmaker Ken Burns' latest documentary, "Jazz." The fact that the annual minifest's focus is on jazz this year is "just coincidental," says Dr. Benjamin C. Wilson, WMU professor of black Americana studies and coordinator of the annual festival.

"I felt it was time to revisit jazz," he says. "We last explored jazz in 1991 and it seemed to be time to examine it again."

The festival format for both evenings will begin with a lecture at 7:30 p.m., followed by a question and answer period and a live musical performance.

On Friday evening, Dr. Horace Boyer, a perennial festival favorite, will lecture on the connection of gospel and blues music to jazz. A professor emeritus of music and dance at the University of Massachusetts, Boyer is described by Wilson as one of the "top authorities on African American music" of many forms.

Boyer's lecture will be followed by a performance by Straight Ahead, a Grammy-winning all-female jazz quintet. The Detroit-based group has performed to rave reviews at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the 1996 Olympics.

On Saturday evening, Dr. Gloria Gibson, an associate vice chancellor for multicultural affairs at Indiana University, will discuss women in jazz. Her presentation will be followed by a performance by Randy Scott & Band.

"The audience will find that Straight Ahead plays jazz in the more traditional style, while Randy Scott & Band's style tends more toward funk jazz," says Wilson.

This is the 13th year for the popular mini-festival, which coincides with Black History Month. Previous festivals have explored other African American musical forms including blues, traditional and contemporary gospel, reggae, and funk.

Festival sponsors include the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation as well as WMU's Lee Honors College, Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Education, Office of University Budgets, Office of the President, Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, Departments of Communication and English, Office of the Assistant Vice President for Business and Assistant Treasurer, the Lewis Walker Institute for Race and Ethnic Relations, Office of Admissions and Orientation, the Black Americana Studies Program, and Preparation, and the Office of the Vice President for Research.

For more information, contact Wilson at (616) 387-2667.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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