The 50th Annual Elmhurst College Jazz Festival: February 23-26, 2017

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Elmhurst College Jazz Festival

The 50th anniversary of the Elmhurst College Jazz Festival is shaping up to be absolutely epic. Click on the names below to read more about the many world-class artists performing at this year's Festival.

Dee Dee Bridgewater
Vanguard Jazz Orchestra
Patrick Wllliams Big Band
Bill Holman Band
Michael Abene
Denis DiBlasio
Pat LaBarbera
Dennis Mackrel
Rufus Reid
Bobby Shew

Dee Dee Bridgewater

Dee Dee Bridgewater is a daring performer of great depth whose singing talents have earned her a Tony and three Grammy Awards, and her commanding personality made her a natural for hosting the award-winning radio show JazzSet on NPR from 2001 to 2014.

Dee Dee has performed and recorded with some of the giants of the music: the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis jazz Orchestra, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, and Clark Terry. She has created a diverse collection of recordings, including tribute albums to Horace Silver, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Kurt Weill; an album of French love songs; and an album recorded in Mali featuring Malian, American, and European musicians. She is also known for her work in musical theater, most notably her  portrayal of Glinda the Good Witch in the Broadway musical The Wiz. Ms. Bridgewater was named a 2017 Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Her roots with our Festival run deep: Dee Dee Bridgewater performed here as a college student singer in the University of Illinois jazz band. She is our featured artist for the opening concert of our 50th on Thursday February 23.

Bill Holman is a leading voice in modern big band composition & arranging.  He has contributed pieces to bands led by Louie Bellson, Count Basie, Terry Gibbs, Woody Herman, Bob Brookmeyer, Buddy Rich, Gerry Mulligan, and Doc Severinsen, among others, and has also written for such singers as Natalie Cole, Tony Bennett, Carmen McRae, Mel Tormé, Woody Herman, Anita O'Day, Sarah Vaughan, and June Christy.  
Holman started the Bill Holman Band in 1975.  The band’s recordings include 1988's The Bill Holman Band, 1995's A View From The Side (for which Holman won a Best Instrumental Composition Grammy for the title track), 1997's Brilliant Corners: The Music of Thelonious Monk, 2005’s Live, and 2007’s Hommage.
The Bill Holman Band’s 2015 performance marks their fourth appearance at the Elmhurst College Jazz FestivalJimmy Heath has long been recognized as a brilliant instrumentalist and a magnificent composer and arranger.  Jimmy is the middle brother of the legendary Heath Brothers (Percy Heath, bass, and Tootie Heath, drums), and is the father of Mtume.   He has performed with nearly all the jazz greats of the last 50 years, from Howard McGhee, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis to Wynton Marsalis. He has performed on more than 100 albums including seven with the Heath Brothers and twelve as a leader.

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Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra is the current name for a band that began as the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra in 1966 and has performed every Monday night at the Village Vanguard in New York ever since. Their recording The Way – Music of Slide Hampton won a Grammy in 2004 for Best Arrangements for Jazz Orchestra. In 2005 their recording Up from the Skies (featuring the music of the ensemble’s pianist, composer and arranger, Jim McNeely) was nominated for two Grammys including Best Jazz Ensemble. Their newest recording, Monday Night at The Village Vanguard, received a Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Arrangement (Bob Brookmeyer's "St. Louis Blues") and a Grammy award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble.

For our 50th celebration, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra returns for its third feature performance at the Festival.

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Patrick Williams

Having composed the music for over 65 feature films, 100 television films, 25 television series, 18 albums, and 30 concert works, Patrick Williams is one of the most accomplished and prolific composers in the music industry today. He has received four Emmy awards, two Grammy awards, and nominations for both an Academy Award and the Pulitzer Prize in music.

Some of Williams’s big band recordings are considered classics of contemporary big band instrumentals, such as Threshold, Tenth Avenue, and Sinatraland. His arranging credits are also extensive, including the albums For Ella, featuring Patti Austin, and Frank Sinatra’s Duets and Duets II, for which he was chosen by Sinatra to act as musical director, arranger, and conductor. 

In 2010, Mr. Williams traveled to Elmhurst with four key soloists for a feature Festival concert conducting the Elmhurst College Jazz Band. This year, for our 50th, he brings his entire Los Angeles-based big band for a Saturday February 25 performance.

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Bill Holman Band

Bill Holman is a leading voice in modern big band composition and arranging. He has contributed pieces to bands led by Louie Bellson, Count Basie, Terry Gibbs, Woody Herman, Bob Brookmeyer, Buddy Rich, Gerry Mulligan, and Doc Severinsen, among others, and has also written for such singers as Natalie Cole, Tony Bennett, Carmen McRae, Mel Tormé, Woody Herman, Anita O'Day, Sarah Vaughan, and June Christy.  

Holman started the Bill Holman Band in 1975. The band’s recordings include 1988's The Bill Holman Band, 1995's A View From The Side (for which Holman won a Best Instrumental Composition Grammy for the title track), 1997's Brilliant Corners: The Music of Thelonious Monk, 2005’s Live, and 2007’s Hommage.

In 2014, Elmhurst College bestowed an honorary doctorate upon Mr. Holman, and he is composing a brand new commission in honor of, and which will premiere at, our 50th Festival. The Bill Holman Band’s 2017 performance will mark their fifth appearance here. 

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Michael Abene

Michael Abene is a composer, arranger, pianist, and record producer. As a teenager he joined the Maynard Ferguson band, and has since worked with the GRP All-Star Big Band, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Dave Grusin, Chick Corea, Eddie Daniels, Dizzy Gillespie, and innumerable other jazz greats. He was the musical director, principal composer, and arranger of the WDR Big Band of Cologne, Germany from 2004-2014.

The Elmhurst College Jazz Festival is proud to welcome Mr. Abene back for his third appearance as guest artist/adjudicator. He will perform on Friday February 24 as part of the Judges Jam Session and on Saturday February 25 as part of the Master Class.

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Denis DiBlasio

Denis DiBlasio is known throughout the world as an accomplished baritone saxophone and flute artist. He toured as Maynard Ferguson’s music director for five years, and he continues to travel widely both performing and teaching. Currently he is director of the jazz program at Rowan University in New Jersey and clinician for the Yamaha Corporation.  The sheer joy of spontaneity, intensity, and depth of expression all come together in the jazz artistry of Denis DiBlasio.

Mr. DiBlasio is an important part of our Festival history, and we are excited to welcome him back as guest artist/adjudicator for our 50th. He will perform on Thursday February 23 as part of the High School Invitational, on Friday February 24 as part of the Judges Jam Session, and on Saturday February 25 as part of the Master Class.

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Pat LaBarbera

Called "a true intellectual of improvisation" by Justin Time Records, saxophonist Pat LaBarbera has been among the key members of the Toronto jazz scene for over forty years, claiming Junos and Jazz Report awards for writing and performing with his own jazz ensembles all along the way. Pat is well known for his work with Elvin Jones, Louis Bellson, and Woody Herman, and he has worked with many other major names in jazz including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Chick Corea, Woody Shaw, and McCoy Tyner. He is on the full-time teaching faculty at Humber College, and he writes, performs, and records with his own trios and quartets. 

Mr. LaBarbera makes his third appearance as guest artist/adjudicator at our Festival this year. He will perform on Friday February 24 as part of the Judges Jam Session and on Saturday February 25 as part of the Master Class.

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Dennis Mackrel

Drummer/composer/arranger Dennis Mackrel was born in 1962 and began playing the drums at the age of two. In 1981 Dennis moved to New York City and landed a gig as a drummer on Broadway. In 1983 he joined the Count Basie Orchestra on the personal recommendation of Joe Williams, whose attention Dennis caught as a member of the University of Las Vegas Jazz Ensemble. He would become the youngest member of the Orchestra and the last drummer to be hired by Mr. Basie personally, and from 2010 to 2013 he served as leader of the Count Basie Orchestra. In 2015, he was named chief conductor of the Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Holland.

Mr. Mackrel serves as guest artist/adjudicator, and he will perform on Thursday February 23 as part of the High School Invitational, on Friday February 24 as part of the Judges Jam Session, and on Saturday February 25 as part of the Master Class.

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Rufus Reid

Rufus Reid is truly one of the premiere bassists of our time. He has toured and recorded with Eddie Harris, Nancy Wilson, Harold Land & Bobby Hutcherson, Lee Konitz, the Thad Jones & Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Dexter Gordon, J.J. Johnson, Art Farmer, Stan Getz, Kenny Burrell, Kenny Barron and countless others. He continues to enjoy associations with Tim Hagans, Bob Mintzer, Frank Wess, Marvin Stamm, and Benny Golson. He also leads his Out Front Trio with pianist Steve Allee and drummer Duduka Da Fonseca.

Rufus’ book The Evolving Bassist, published since 1974, continues to be recognized as the industry standard as the definitive bass method.

Mr. Reid has performed at our Festival as a sideman many times, but it has been 43 years since has last appearance as a guest artist/adjudicator. We welcome him for his third appearance as such this year for our 50th. He will perform on Friday February 24 as part of the Judges Jam Session and on Saturday February 25 as part of the Master Class.

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Bobby Shew

Bobby Shew is a veteran of the music industry and a true legend of the trumpet. He has performed with Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Bill Holman, Oliver Nelson, Maynard Ferguson, and innumerable other big bands, and his soundtrack recording credits read like an index of the 20th century's most popular movies and television shows. Bobby is also a master educator - he conducts clinics around the world and is on the board of directors of the International Trumpet Guild. He never stops using his remarkable insight, sensitivity, and creativity to inspire the next generation of jazz players and teachers.

Mr. Shew has appeared as Festival guest artist/adjudicator seven times, and we are proud to make our 50th his 8th. He will perform on Thursday February 23 as part of the High School Invitational, on Friday February 24 as part of the Judges Jam Session, and on Saturday February 25 as part of the Master Class.

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