Wednesday, March 11, 2015

JAZZ PIANIST BENNY GREEN HEADLINES 2015 MAPLEROCK JAZZ FESTIVAL

Ashland University’s award-winning Jazz program is proud to present the 2015 Maplerock Jazz Festival slated for Friday, March 20. Along with free performances by area high school jazz ensembles in the afternoon, the event presents a main stage concert at 7:30 p.m. in Hugo Young Theatre. The evening concert opens with the Ashland University Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Dr. Scott Garlock and features Jazz pianist Benny Green as the headlining guest artist along with Ashland High School alumnus Michael Stewart on trumpet; Dave Sterner, alto saxophone; and Jeff Bush, trombone. 

The afternoon performances are free and open to the public while tickets for the evening concert are available through the Ashland University Box Office at 419.289.5125, 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, or online (additional fees apply) at www.ashland.edu/tickets.  Tickets for the evening concert are $10 for adults; $5 for senior citizens, non-Ashland University students and Ashland University faculty and staff; and free for Ashland University students.

Masterful pianist Benny Green possesses the history of jazz at his fingertips. Combine mastery of keyboard technique with decades of real world experience playing with no one less than the most celebrated artists of the last half century, and it's no wonder Green has been hailed as perhaps the most exciting hard-swinging, hard-bop pianist to ever emerge from Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. 

Born in New York in 1963, Benny Green grew up in Berkeley, California, and began classical piano studies at the age of seven. Influenced by his father, a tenor saxophonist, his attention soon turned to Jazz: “I began trying to improvise on the piano, imitating the records I'd been hearing from my father's collection, which included a lot of Monk and Bird… it was a gradual process of teaching myself”.

Benny never looked back and never stopped learning as his blossoming talents, supported by mentors such as Walter Bishop, Jr. and others, plus his love for the music propelled him to the upper strata of jazz luminaries.  Benny’s list of credits, accomplishments, and accolades could literally fill a book. His recordings with the masters form a foundation of jazz education. He began his touring life with Betty Carter for four years, was the first recipient of the City of Toronto's Glen Gould International Protégé Prize in Music, and has appeared on well over one hundred recordings with legacy artists such as Betty Carter, Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Watson, Milt Jackson, Diana Krall and Ray Brown.

Also joining Maplerock as a guest artist and returning to his hometown is trumpeter, arranger and composer Michael Stewart. With an active teaching studio and performing career in the Chicago area, Michael currently plays lead trumpet with the Gold Coast Orchestra, the Chicago Grandstand Big Band, the Dana Legg Jazz Band, the Grand Avenue Big Band and is a freelance classical soloist. He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in Music Composition from the University of South Carolina, a Master of Arts degree in Trumpet Performance from Eastern Illinois University, and a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies from the University of Akron (OH). Although he primarily writes for jazz ensembles from 7 to 17 players and various brass ensembles, his compositions also cover a far reaching range of styles and genres.

Saxophonist Dave Sterner is a traditional jazz musician with a bent for mixing swing, funk and the blues into his sound. Spending his entire career in the Mid-West, Sterner earned his degree in music from Indiana University and early on played with funk and R&B bands. Returning to his home town of Cleveland, he has performed with Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin, Harry Connick Jr., The Manhattan Transfer, The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, The Jazz Heritage Orchestra and the Dizzy Gillespie All-star Big Band to name a few. In addition to teaching for the Cuyahoga Community College jazz program, Mr. Sterner conducts the Lakeland Community College Civic Jazz Orchestra and co-directs the Lakeland Jazz Festival.

Pennsylvania native Jeff Bush began studying music at the age of four on an unlikely instrument, the banjo. He followed with the piano and then discovered the trombone which has become a lifelong pursuit. Working as a professional musician while still a college student, Bush performed with The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra and toured with The Glenn Miller Orchestra. In his final year of undergraduate study, Bush became linked to one of his musical heroes, receiving the Frank Rosolino Memorial Scholarship. The award featured Bush at the 1999 International Trombone Festival and allowed him to study in Berlin, Germany with acclaimed trombonist, Jiggs Whigham. In 2000 Jeff moved to New York City to begin a Master's degree at The Manhattan School of Music and to pursue a freelance career which continues to flourish today.  Bush is honored to have performed with a number of great jazz artists including The Count Basie Orchestra, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Cyrus Chestnut and Anthony Braxton. Jeff has also been a featured soloist and substitute conductor for The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and joined the big band of superstar Harry Connick Jr. in February 2007 and stayed with the group through early 2009. 

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