The Whitworth University Jazz Ensemble has developed an international reputation as the result of its travels overseas. The band has had the opportunity to travel for several years during Whitworth's Jan Term.
New York and New Orleans
During January Term of 2010 the Whitworth Jazz Ensemble toured and performed in New York City and New Orleans. Highlights of the tour included performing with jazz legend Lee Konitz and well-regarded jazz musicians Donny McCaslin and Ryan Keberle of New York, and Larry Panella of New Orleans.
While in New York City, the ensemble performed at Hunter College with McCaslin and Keberle. They also played at Nyack College Manhattan with Konitz and at La Guardia High School. While in New Orleans they performed at Fountainbleau High School and the University of Southern Mississippi with jazz professor Larry Panella.
In addition to performing, the ensemble also enjoyed going to jazz concerts at clubs in both cities, including the Maria Schneider Big Band at Birdland; Chris Potter and the Village Vanguard Big Band at the Village Vanguard; the Pedro Giraudo Band at Jazz Gallery; and Ellis Marsalis at New Orleans' Sung Harbor. They also sat in on a four-hour rehearsal of the Lincoln Jazz Center Orchestra.
"In all our jazz tours during my 20 years at Whitworth, no destinations have offered anything close to the quality and number of jazz clubs as this tour did," says Dan Keberle, director of the jazz ensemble. "The students had an incredible listening experience during their week in Manhattan, hearing many of the current top jazz artists in the world. Then we heard original Dixieland jazz music in the streets and clubs of New Orleans."
Keberle continues, "In addition to a great performance experience, this trip more than any other was one of the most educational jazz trips I have ever taken with Whitworth's jazz students."
In January 2006, the ensemble packed its instruments and a repertoire of American jazz favorites and headed south to Brazil, where the group participated in a Whitworth Jan Term study-abroad program. Under the direction of Whitworth Professor of Music Dan Keberle and Assistant Professor of Music Brent Edstrom, the 25-member ensemble performed American jazz music in cities across the country and learned about Brazilian culture.
In Sao Paolo, the largest city in South America, with a population of 17 million, the ensemble performed at the Unified Education Center with guest artist Ed Fogasa, a Brazilian tenor saxophonist. The CEU is a community center located in the heart of a low-income region of the city. Hundreds of children, along with their parents and family members, made their way from the center's outdoor swimming pool to the auditorium to take in the ensemble's performance of modern American big-band jazz.
"For many, this was the first time they had ever heard an American jazz band in person," Keberle says.
From Sao Paulo the ensemble traveled to Salvador, where it performed as the opening group in the 14th annual Festival of Instrumental Music in Bahia, held in the Castro Alves Theatre. The modern, 1,500-seat theatre is home to the Salvador Symphony Orchestra and host to other prominent musical groups.
The Whitworth Jazz Ensemble performed Keberle's arrangements of Thelonius Monk's I Mean You, featuring Edstrom on the piano, Kenny Garrett's Doc Tones Short Speech and Sing a Song of Songs, Count Basie's Cherry Point and Jumpin' at the Woodside, Duke Ellington's Caravan, the ballads Lover Man (Davis/Ramirez/Sherman) and My Funny Valentine (Richard Rodgers), and five other selections. The ensemble's performance was received with two standing ovations from an enthusiastic crowd of more than 1,000 people.
During the following days, Keberle and Edstrom presented lectures to Brazilian students and professional musicians. Keberle lectured on the history of American big-band jazz , and Edstrom presented a lecture and demonstration on the history of jazz piano.
In addition to performing American jazz music, Whitworth students absorbed Brazilian music and culture.
"The students had to speak Portuguese to most people," Keberle says. "They learned about Brazilian food, music, religion, history and culture as they lived in each city."
The students heard authentic samba, bossa nova and choro bands in various jazz clubs around Sao Paolo and Salvador. They visited the Museum of Arts of Sao Paolo, the Old Town Market of Salvador, and the Praia do Forte, a sea-turtle refuge and scientific research center on the beach north of Salvador. Students also attended a performance by the Folklore Ballet of Bahia, which showcased folk music of Brazilian natives and African slaves.
The band traveled to Italy in 1993, 1996, 1999, 2004, 2008 and 2014, performing at jazz clubs and community centers in Rome and in the surrounding area. They have performed several times with Italian jazz superstars such as Enrico Pieranunzi, Roberto Gatto, and Maurizio Giammarco at Rome's blues and jazz club "Big Mama's," as well as in communities such as Veroli, Artena, and Ferentino, and in several of Rome's schools and churches. While in Rome (most of these trips take place during Whitworth's Jan Term), students spend their daytime hours seeing incredible art, architecture, and historical sites such as the Colosseum, The Vatican, the basilicas of St. Peter, St. Giovanni and St. Peter in Chains, the Roman Forum, the catacombs, the Appian Way, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Rome Opera House, numerous jazz clubs, the Mediterranean Sea, the Church of the Cuppacine Monks ("the bone church"), and numerous other wonderful sites. All of the concerts were extremely well attended and much appreciated; Italians are very hip to jazz music, and they love to come and hear American jazz players!
In January 1997 the band spent two weeks in Australia, where they gave five performances at the Marvelous Melbourne Jazz Festival and four performances in the "bush," in towns such as St. Arnaud, where they conducted jazz clinics for the children and helped the community to launch its own annual jazz festival. This trip was co-sponsored by the Rotary Club of St. Arnaud, whose people were extremely hospitable in showing the Whitworth students how to pan for gold, shear sheep, climb rocks, and watch wild kangaroos bounding through the bush!
During Jan Term 2001, the band traveled to Havana and performed two concerts at the Jazz Cafe in downtown Havana, a concert at Teatro America, and two performances at Havana Music Conservatories. They also were participants in two Latin- percussion clinics and spent considerable time with five young Cuban musicians -- all hot jazz players! -- who performed with the band. Students saw the many wonderful sights of Havana: sunny skies, the warm ocean, Old Havana, the marketplace, the Hemingway monument, and the wonderful Cuban people. The trip was organized and set up by Canada-Cuba Cultural and Sports Festivals.
In addition to the overseas trips, the group has also been featured at the Nelson Jazz Festival (in Canada) and has toured San Francisco, Los Angeles and the Pacific Northwest.