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Vocal Great Kurt Elling Caps Jazz Week 2006
For release: Feb. 2, 2006
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Kurt Elling, a rising star on the esteemed Blue Note label, will headline Jazz Week 2006, February 28-March 4 at the University of Memphis. Now more than three decades strong, Jazz Week is the annual series of concerts staged by faculty, students, and guest artists at the U of M's Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music.

Benny Powell, the acclaimed onetime trombonist with the Count Basie Orchestra, is also a Jazz Week guest in concert with the Faculty Jazz Group at Harris Concert Hall on March 3.

Elling will perform with his trio as well as sit in with the school's flagship jazz ensemble, the 17-piece big band Southern Comfort Jazz Orchestra, in a March 4 finale at the Michael D. Rose Theatre. Only in his 30s, Chicago native Elling has fast made a name for himself since joining the Blue Note label a decade ago. Known for his expressive, virtuosic range and repertoire, which extends from classic balladry to scat and even beat poetry, Elling can pull off vocal imitations of the most complex saxophone solos one minute and lull you with his romantic interpretations of standards the next.

"We hadn't had a vocalist as a headliner," says Dr. Jack Cooper, director of Jazz Studies at the School of Music. "Elling is really the guy out there in terms of getting Grammy® nominations. We had the opportunity to get him and we jumped on it."

New Orleans legend Powell has played with a coterie of pros from Lionel Hampton and Randy Weston to the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra and the "Merv Griffin Show" house band. The trombone veteran is perhaps most famous for his long stint with Count Basie, soloing on such classics as April in Paris. Notes Cooper, "Benny is one of the last surviving members of the famous Basie jazz orchestra from 1958-1963."

All Jazz Week events are open to the public and start at 7:30 p.m. The full schedule is as follows (all shows are free except where noted):

  • Tuesday, Feb. 28: A "Jazz Combos" show by eight student groups at Harris Concert Hall.
  • Wednesday, March 1: Student jazz/R&B ensemble Blue Ascendance at Harris Concert Hall.
  • Thursday, March 2: A "Jazz Singers" show by two student jazz choirs at Memphis Drum Shop.
  • Friday, March 3: A "Faculty Jazz Group" concert (featuring Cooper on saxophone, bassist Tim Goodwin, pianist Chris Parker and drummer Karlton Scott) with special guest Benny Powell at Harris Concert Hall.
  • Saturday, March 4: A "High School Jazz Festival" with nearly a dozen competing high school jazz bands at Harris Concert Hall.
  • Saturday, March 4: Southern Comfort Jazz Orchestra with special guests Kurt Elling and His Trio at the Michael D. Rose Theatre ($10 general public, $7 seniors, faculty and non-U of M students, U of M students free with ID).

For tickets and information, call 678-5400.

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