NSU Green Country Jazz Festival welcomes pianist Werner - March 4, 5

(Tahlequah, Okla.)--Legendary jazz pianist and composer Kenny Werner will be the special guest of Northeastern State University's 45th annual Green Country Jazz Festival on March 4-5.

The festival opens Sunday with the eighth annual Judges Jam at 8 p.m. in the Jazz Lab at 315 N. Muskogee Ave. in Tahlequah. Admission is $5.

Werner will perform with an all-star jazz combo featuring Tito Carillo, Doug Leibinger, James Greeson, Jared Johnson, Mikel Combs and Tommy Poole, director of jazz studies at NSU

"Kenny is one of the most creative players I've heard," Poole said. "He is not afraid to take risks in his improvising and composing. His work pushes the boundaries of standard big band compositional techniques."

The Green Country Jazz Festival continues March 5 at 7 p.m. in the NSU Center for the Performing Arts with Werner and the NSU Jazz Ensemble giving a special evening concert. General admission tickets are $12. Admission is $6 with an NSU student ID. To make reservations contact Combs at 918-444-4603.

In the mid-1980s Werner became pianist with the Mel Lewis Orchestra (now the Village Vanguard Orchestra). Challenged by Mel Lewis and Bob Brookmeyer to write for the band, he produced his first compositions and arrangements for the jazz orchestra. It led him to write for the major big bands of Europe, including the Cologne, Danish, Brussels and Stockholm jazz orchestras and The Umo Jazz Orchestra of Finland. Werner also was a frequent guest soloist and composer with the Metropole Orchestra of Holland.

"He is such a proficient and spontaneous player, the barrier between what he wants to play and what he can play is gone," Poole said. "The concerts promise to be exciting events for those with him onstage and in the audience."

Poole said he also was eager to welcome Leibinger, Carillo and Greeson from out of state for the Judges Jam. Leibinger is jazz program director at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif., Carillo is a jazz trumpet professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Greeson directs the University of Arkansas Jazz Ensemble.

"I attended the University of Miami with Doug and I studied jazz with Tito at the University of Texas," Poole said. "Tito was supposed to be the featured performer at last year's Jam-Balaya and Trumpet Festival, but both were cancelled due to weather."

The Green Country Jazz Festival is part of the NSU Green Country Jazz Series. The series is presented with help from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Oklahoma Arts Council. 

Published: 2/28/2012 11:16:51 AM

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