CULLOWHEE – The annual Jazz Festival at Western Carolina University will take place Friday, April 8, and Saturday, April 9, on the WCU campus.
This year’s evening performances, at 7:30 p.m. in the in the Fine and Performing Arts Center, feature legendary saxophonist Bobby Watson and the Libor Smoldas Quartet, the first European band to play the festival. On April 8, Watson will play with the WCU Jazz Ensemble and then the Pavel Wlosok Trio. On April 9, Watson will take the stage with the Steve Wohlrab Trio and then with the Libor Smoldas Quartet. Concert tickets cost $5 for each night.
Watson and other musicians will perform and speak at a series of rehearsals, clinics and master classes on the WCU campus throughout the two-day festival. Those events are free and open to the public. For a comprehensive schedule, visit www.pavelwlosok.com/wcu/jazzfest2011.
A saxophonist, composer, producer and educator, Watson grew up in Kansas City, Kan. He trained formally at the University of Miami; after graduating, he was musical director of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers from 1977-81. Watson has worked with drummers Max Roach and Louis Hayes, fellow saxophonists George Coleman and Branford Marsalis, celebrated multi-instrumentalist Sam Rivers, and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Watson currently is a distinguished professor of jazz studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
The Libor Smoldas Quartet is a leading representative of a new generation of Czech jazz and plays mainly original compositions of contemporary acoustic jazz. In addition to guitarist Libor Smoldas, members are George Mraz, Jeff Ballard and Sam Yahel. A 2010 review in “All About Jazz” called the band’s release “In New York On Time” a “masterful display of compositional creativity, group interplay, and musical integrity.”
The Jazz Festival is an annual event organized by Pavel Wlosok, WCU assistant professor of jazz. The CD “St. Louis Blues,” a collection by the WCU Jazz Ensemble and featuring Asheville vocalist Kat Williams, will be on sale at the festival for $10 and support music scholarships.