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Frank Vignola and Julien Labro
January 29 @ 6:30pm
In the 1930s, the Romani people living in and around Paris introduced their dark, chromatic musical flavor to the American swing, creating a union of exotic melodies and spirited rhythm. This new musical style came to be known as jazz manouche or “Gypsy jazz.” Today, Frank Vignola and Julien Labro are individually celebrated as the foremost torchbearers of the Gypsy jazz tradition. Vignola’s virtuosic technical prowess on his instrument has made him the guitarist of choice for many of the world’s top musicians, including Ringo Starr, Madonna, Donald Fagen, Wynton Marsalis, the Boston Pops, and guitar legend Les Paul. French-born Julien Labro has established himself as one of the preeminent accordion and bandoneón players in both the classical and jazz genres. “A brilliant technician, poetic melodist and cunning arranger,” Labro’s artistry and creativity as a musician, composer and arranger have earned him international acclaim and continue to astonish audiences worldwide. These two musicians will come together to pay homage to the intoxicating sound that their musical predecessor Django Reinhardt forged more than 80 years ago in the subterranean haunts of Paris.
February 10 @ 7:30pm, $42
Vilar Performing Arts Center
Sitting comfortably at the intersection of jazz fusion, straight-ahead and R&B, Yellowjackets enter their 34th year as a band with sold-out performances nationwide. The group’s celebrated 2013 recording, “A Rise in the Road,” debuted at #1 on the Itunes Jazz Charts, and launched Yellowjackets into its next generation, and into an expansive, mature sound. The band is currently comprised of original member Russell Ferrante (keyboards), along with Bob Mintzer (saxophone), Dane Alderson (bass), and William Kennedy (drums). Over the span of their career, the Yellowjackets have received 17 Grammy nominations with two wins, and are releasing their 24th album Cohearance this Spring.
Caesar Sings Nat “King” Cole
February 25 @ 6:30pm, performance 7:30pm, $30
The soft, crooning baritone voice of Nat “King” Cole is a timeless melody to listeners of both jazz and popular music. Born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1919, Cole began his life in jazz by sneaking out of the house as a boy to hear celebrated jazzmen like Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines play at nearby clubs. By 1943 he was a jazz star in his own right, and went on to enjoy a 30 year long career as one of the most celebrated jazz musicians in history. Today, Caesar’s voice is a direct link to the Golden age of true vocal artistry. A Chicago native, Caesar got his big break when he nailed an audition for Julio Iglesias at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, becoming the first and only baritone vocalist to perform and tour with the legendary performer on his Tango World Tour. Caesar has toured, shared the stage, and recorded with Lou Rawls, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clark, George Duke, Al Jarreau, Ronnie Laws, Gerald Albright and countless others.
March 10 @ 6:30pm, performance 7:30pm, $30
A native of Melbourne, Australia, Sarah McKenzie made her debut performance at the Umbria Jazz Festival Competition in 2012, where she was awarded a full scholarship to attend the iconic Berklee College of Music. After graduating she was quickly signed by impulse!, and her second album, Close Your Eyes, won the Best Jazz Album ARIA award (Australian Grammy). She has performed on jazz music’s most iconic stages, including Monterey, Marciac, and Dizzy’s in New York, as well as the top clubs in Paris, London, Vienna, Munich and Sydney. McKenzie’s full-bodied touch on the piano, paired with her delicate yet soaring vocal finesse, evoke qualities of Norah Jones or Diana Krall. Already known for her mature instrumental and vocal phrasing, this international rising star has demonstrated experience beyond her years.
Jon Cleary: The History of New Orleans Piano
Soirée, Lake Creek, by invitation only
Rolling with energy, vibrancy and a buoyant stride, the piano music of New Orleans is a category to itself, and no living pianist is more in touch with this musical tradition than Jon Cleary. Born in Cranbrook in Kent, England, Cleary traveled to New Orleans in the early ‘80s for a visit and has never left. He took a painting job at the Maple Leaf, a funky Uptown bar that featured such New Orleans piano legends as James Booker and Roosevelt Sykes. One evening, when Booker failed to show up for a gig (a not uncommon occurrence), Cleary was thrust into the spotlight of the New Orleans music scene, and hasn’t looked back since. Cleary has risen through the ranks as a pianist and guitarist, adding vocals along the way, and his most recent album Gogo Juice is nominated for a 2016 Grammy Award. His increasingly high-profile performances reveal a level of proficient versatility that have led to recording sessions and international touring work with Taj Mahal, John Scofield, Dr. John and, most notably, Bonnie Raitt, who refers to Cleary as “the ninth wonder of the world.”