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News > Jazz Heritage Series Celebrates 20 Years
Jazz Heritage Series Celebrates 20 Years

Posted 8/31/2009   Updated 8/31/2009 Email story   Print story


by Master Sgt. Brian McCurdy
The USAF Band

8/31/2009 - BOLLING AFB, D.C. -- The United States Air Force Band is pleased to announce the 2009 Jazz Heritage Series! These free concerts feature three giants in the jazz world: New York Voices, Joey Defrancesco, and Gary Smulyan. The performances will take place at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC at 8:00 p.m. on September 11, October 2, and November 6. Guest artists on the Jazz Heritage Series perform with the Airmen of Note, the premier jazz ensemble of the U.S. Air Force.

New York Voices The Grammy Award winning vocal ensemble New York Voices will kick off the series on Friday, September 11. Celebrating their 22nd anniversary this year, New York Voices is renowned for their excellence in jazz and the art of group singing. The group was formed in 1987 and received rave reviews, quickly becoming recognized in the domestic and international jazz world.

Like the great groups that have come before, such as Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, Singers Unlimited, and Manhattan Transfer, New York Voices has learned from the best and taken the art form to new levels. Their interests are rooted in jazz, but often Brazilian, R&B, classical, and pop influences are infused with equal creativity and authenticity.

They have a full program of big band arrangements, and they have toured with the Boston Pops and many other prominent orchestras all over the United States, gracing the stages of Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, The Blue Note (Japan and New York City), the Austria Opera House, and the Zurich Opera House.

Joey DeFrancesco The series continues on Friday, October 2nd with jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco. From the very beginning, the Philadelphia native established his credentials with virtuoso technique and an innate soulfulness on the organ. Throughout the 1990s, DeFrancesco was widely recognized as spearheading a renewed interested in the Hammond organ, an instrument that had fallen out of favor among musicians and the public since its golden period during the 1960's and early 70's.

Today organ aficionados regard Joey DeFrancesco as the greatest jazz organist in the business. And while he has never made any boastful claims about his own ranking among the organ elite on the contrary, Defrancesco has always respectfully deferred to his predecessors.

No organist today plays with the skill, harmonic depth, and authority of this phenomenal musician from Philadelphia. With over 20 solo releases and historic associations with legends such as Miles Davis, Jimmy Smith, Bobby Hutcherson, Elvin Jones and John McLaughlin, DeFrancesco's place is forever cemented in the idiom's history.

Gary Smulyan The series concludes on Friday, November 6th, with baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan. The Bethpage, New York native started his music career by learning alto saxophone during his teenage years on Long Island. Today he is critically acclaimed and recognized as a major voice on the baritone saxophone. His playing is marked by an aggressive rhythmic sense, an intelligent and creative harmonic approach and perhaps most importantly--a strong and incisive wit.

While still in high school, Smulyan had the chance to sit in with major jazz artists such as legendary trumpeter Chet Baker, saxophonist Lee Konitz, trombonist Jimmy Knepper and violinist Ray Nance. He joined Woody Herman's Young Thundering Herd in 1978. The band was a remarkable collection of young musicians who ultimately would find themselves in the forefront of present day jazz.

Gradually establishing himself, the talented Smulyan was asked to share the stage and the recording studio with trumpeters Freddie Hubbard and Dizzy Gillespie, saxophonist Stan Getz, pianist Chick Corea, timbales king Tito Puente, and R&B/Blues and soul icons Ray Charles, B.B. King, and Diana Ross.

Now in its 20th year, the Jazz Heritage Series provides a wonderful opportunity for listeners to experience first hand the professionalism of the United States Air Force through concerts featuring masters of the only American-born art form--jazz music.  The list of guest artists who have appeared on the series reads like a "who's who" in the jazz industry.

All three concerts in the Jazz Heritage Series will start at 8 p.m. and are free and open to the public. No tickets are needed. Lisner Auditorium is located at 730 21st Street Northwest, on the campus of George Washington University. The nearest metro stations are Foggy Bottom and GWU.

For more information about concerts by The United States Air Force Band, call (202) 767-5658 or visit the calendar on our website.

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