Jazz up your weekend with a musical festival

Jim Pianist

Get your feet tapping to the beats of the NAU Jazz Festival Feb. 25 through 27 and relax to the rhythms of more than 50 bands.

The festival features Arizona’s best junior high, high school and community college bands and will celebrate its 48th year at NAU with a guest performance by jazz pianist Jim McNeely with the NAU Jazz Ensemble One at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, in Ardrey Auditorium.

The NAU Jazz Festival 2010 is free and open to the public, but tickets are required for the McNeely Guest Artist Concert. They are $20 in advance or $25 at the door for the public, and $15 in advance or $20 at the door for students. For tickets, call (928) 523-5661.

“Along with Bob Brookmeyer, Bill Holman and Maria Schneider, Jim McNeely is on the short list of greatest living composers for jazz ensemble,” said Russell Schmidt, acting director of Jazz Studies. “His music is deep, but not ponderous, because of the life and buoyant wit he imbues in his work.”

The Guest Artist Concert will feature six of McNeely’s original compositions, including Extra CreditDer Seiltänzer (The Tightrope Walker) and Absolution. Two McNeely arrangements also will be performed, including Up from the Skies by Jimi Hendrix andLeaving by Richie Beirach, featuring NAU student/jazz vocalist Holly Pyle with the big band.

Jazz Festival Performances
(free and open to the public)Thursday, Feb. 25
8 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2:30-7 p.m.
Student big bands and jazz combos1:40 to 2:20 p.m.
NAU Jazz Ensemble TwoFriday, Feb. 26
8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1:30-6 p.m.
Student big bands and jazz combosSaturday, Feb. 27
8 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2:30–4 p.m. 
Student big bands and jazz combos

McNeely has recorded with major artists such as Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Stan Getz, Bob Brookmeyer, David Liebman, Art Farmer, Robert Watson and Phil Woods. His latest album is called Up from the Skieswith the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra on the Planet Arts label. McNeely’s reputation as composer/arranger and conductor for large jazz bands has earned him nine Grammy nominations.

For information about the Jazz Festival, contact NAU Jazz Studies at (928) 523-3779 or e-mail Russell Schmidt at NAUJazzFest2010@yahoo.com.