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Summer Jazz promises new twists to an old favorite

June 21, 2010

Summer Jazz promises new twists to an old favorite

Two new twists highlight this summer's concert series of special events scheduled during the Skidmore Jazz Institute.

Luis Bonilla performs July 3

In addition to a roster of top artists (including the return of vibraphonist Stefon Harris and pianist Bill Charlap) and the always-popular concerts by the Jazz Institute faculty and students, there's the first -ever "Evening of Poetry and Jazz" with former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky and institute faculty members Todd Coolman (bass) and Pat LaBarbera (tenor saxophone).

Also new this summer is the performance space:   most institute special events will be in Skidmore's Arthur Zankel Music Center, which opened earlier this year on campus. 

One thing has not changed:   admission to all special events is free and open to the public.

There are 51 students (including a 12-year-old guitarist from Ireland) enrolled in Skidmore's 2010 Jazz Institute, which runs from June 26 to July 10 on campus.   Don McCormack, who launched the Jazz Institute in 1987 when he was dean of special programs at Skidmore, returns as director. The Skidmore Jazz Institute is operated in partnership with the New York State Summer School of the Arts with Todd Coolman serving as artistic director.

This year's faculty includes Mark Beaubriand, saxophonist who also serves as academic advisor; Todd Coolman, bass and combo leader; Bill Cunliffe, 2010 Grammy Award-winning pianist ("Best Instrumental Arrangement" of West Side Story by the Resonance Big Band) and combo leader; Curtis Fuller, trombone and combo leader; Bob Halek and Dennis Mackrel, drums; John LaBarbera, trumpet, composition, and combo leader; Pat LaBarbera, saxophone and combo leader; Hal Miller, jazz history; George Muscatello, guitar; Bobby Shew, trumpet and combo leader; and Gerald Zaffuts, combo leader. 
Renee Rosnes performs July 6

New this year is the June 28 "Evening of Poetry and Jazz," a collaboration involving two of Skidmore's long-running summer programs:   the New York State Summer Writers Institute and the Skidmore Jazz Institute.   Pinsky, who has been a longtime writers institute faculty member, is a huge jazz fan who has used jazz and music as recurring motifs in his work.   He also has given readings with musical accompaniment at the Jazz Standard in Manhattan. A few years ago he and Pat LaBarbera collaborated on a performance in which Pinsky read and LaBarbera performed.   Although the event was unrehearsed, it was a great success and led to plans for a repeat performance, this time with the addition of Coolman on bass.  

From the start, Skidmore's Jazz Institute developed a strong following among jazz fans in the region for the series of free concerts by guest artists that accompanies the classroom program.  All performances are free and open to the public and will take place in the Arthur Zankel Music Center's Helen Filene Ladd Concert Hall, except where noted. The schedule includes the following: 

-Monday, June 28, 8 p.m., Gannett Auditorium, Palamountain Hall"An Evening of Poetry and Jazz" featuring Robert Pinsky with Skidmore Jazz Institute faculty members Todd Coolman (bass) and Pat LaBarbera (tenor saxophone).

-Tuesday, June 29, 8 p.m.- Stefon Harris and Blackout.   Grammy-nominated Harris leads this quintet, which includes Sullivan Fortner, Ben Williams, Terreon Gully, and Casey Benjamin.

-Thursday, July 1, 8 p.m. - Skidmore Faculty Sextet, featuring Bill Cunliffe, Todd Coolman, Dennis Mackrel, Pat LaBarbera, Bobby Shew, and Curtis Fuller.

-Saturday July 3, 8 p.m. - Luis Bonilla Quintet, featuring Latin trombonist Bonilla and collaborators Bruce Barth, Robin Sabin, John Riley, and Ivan Renta.

-Tuesday, July 6, 8 p.m. - Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes.   Husband and wife team up in this extraordinary performance of piano duets.

-Thursday, July 8, 8 p.m. - Skidmore Faculty Sextet, with Cunliffe, Coolman, Mackrel, Pat LaBarbera, Shew, and Fuller.

-Fridays, July 2, and July 9, 1 p.m. - Jazz Student Concerts, featuring institute participants.

Bill Charlap performs July 6

The Skidmore Summer Jazz Institute is sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Arthur Zimtbaum Foundation, the Howard Bayne Foundation, and EMI-Capitol Records/Blue Note Label Group.

About the guest artists

Vibraphonist-composer Stefon Harris is a three-time Grammy Award nominee and recipient of Lincoln Center's Martin E. Segal Award. On June 14, 2010, he received the "Mallet Instrumentalist of the Year" honor from the Jazz Journalists Association. He earned a B.M. degree in classical music and an M.M. degree in jazz performance at the Manhattan School of Music. He tours internationally with his band Blackout and the San Francisco Jazz Collective, teaches at New York University, and has been artist-in-residence at Fontana Chamber Arts (Kalamazoo), and the Thelonious S. Monk Institute for Jazz Studies.   The Albany High School graduate has long been familiar with Skidmore's Jazz Institute?he used to attend institute concerts when he was young musician living and working in the area.

Luis Bonilla,the California-raised, Costa Rican trombonist, composer, and arranger has mastered an incredible array of musical styles. Currently a member of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra under Arturo O'Farrill's direction (both 2009 Grammy winners) and Dave Douglas's latest group (Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy), Bonilla is an artist whose work is always expanding. Critics praised his first two albums on the Candid label, Pasos Gigantes (1998) and iEscucha! (2000), andPasos Gigantesmade Jazziz's"top 10 Latin" list of 1998.His next album, 2007's Terminal Clarity, was a celebration, reflection, and aesthetic extension of his years working with Lester Bowie. Bonilla's latest album, I Talking Now! (2009), is a heady mix of swing, rock, free jazz, funk, movie soundtracks, avant-garde noise and ballads. Bonilla is a member of the faculty at Temple University and Manhattan School of Music.

Bill Charlap is a returning guest artist at the Skidmore Jazz Institute and his wife, Renee Rosnes, is a former member of the faculty. Their CD, Double Portrait, released June 8 on the Blue Note Label, is their first collaborative recording.   It features a number of four-hand piano duets of selections by jazz greats Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson as well as other composers, including George and Ira Gershwin, and original compositions by Rosnes. They will perform on two concert grand pianos on the Ladd Concert Hall stage. NPR's "Weekend Edition" recently aired a story on Charlap and Rosnes and Double Portrait.




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