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The Lafayette Jazz Ensemble will perform its annual winter concert at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8, in the Williams Center for the Arts. The event is free and open to the public.

“We can look forward to a concert that is full of energy and enthusiasm. I think we’re playing some fun arrangements,” says director Kenneth Brader III.

All interested students are encouraged to audition for this standard format big band, which explores a wide variety of jazz styles with a strong emphasis on the development of individual improvisational skills. Performances occur year-round both on and off campus. In the spring, well-known professional soloists join the ensemble for a special concert. Recent guest artists have included Lew Soloff, Robert Rouch, Nelson Hill, Janet Lawson, Butch Lacy, and Urbie Green.

Brader is a noted trumpet player and conductor who has been featured as lead trumpet player with Chuck Mangione, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and many of the world’s leading jazz performers.

“The ensemble is closing with ‘Samba For a Rainy Day,’ which was composed and arranged by Jake Lentz,” Brader says. “I came upon that as I was playing a gig in the Poconos and Jake was the piano player. The arrangement we’re playing was written for the Mel Lewis Big Band, which performed it in New York City. Because I play in different bands as a professional, when I run into a nice arrangement, I can bring it to Lafayette and expose the students to it.”

Another selection, “That’s What I Thought,” is an original composition by Paul McKee, who was a guest artist with the Jazz Ensemble five years ago, Brader notes.

The ensemble features a number of promising student musicians, notes Brader. They include Tom Ahrens ’02 (Haddonfield, N.J.), trumpet; Ned Allis ’02 (Shermans Dale, Pa.), guitar; Mike Beatrice ’04 (Mahwah, N.J.), trombone; Brandon Cochenour ’03 (Lower Burrell, Pa.), piano; Ryan Collins ’03 (Whitehouse Station, N.J.), saxophone; Chris Michaud ’03 (Millerton, N.Y.), saxophone; Dan Miller ’03 (East Amherst, N.Y.), bass; Elizabeth Ponder ’04 (Collegeville, Pa.), saxophone and flute; and Greg Staszowski ’02 (South Windsor, Conn.), trumpet.

“I’ve seen tremendous growth in Chris Michaud, our tenor sax soloist,” Brader says. “He’s working with Cliff Tracy, the saxophone instructor at Lafayette. I’ve seen a lot of development in his musicality and improvisational skills this year. We also have a strong rhythm section with the nucleus of Brandon on piano and Dan on bass.”

Brader says Ponder is a strong flutist who learned saxophone to participate in the ensemble. Her versatility will be featured in flute improvisations and the melody of “Samba For a Rainy Day.”

“We also have a freshman trombone player and sophomore trumpet player, Mike Beatrice and Greg Staszowski, who have been very consistent in attending rehearsals and contributed a lot to the spirit of the ensemble. We’ve benefited from some new blood.”

Rounding out the ensemble are Mike Fragasi and Chip Magdasy, saxophones; Ken Mease, Art Sundheim, and Jim Daniels, trombones; John Sutton, Vince Pettinelli, and Matt Cochran, trumpets; and Chuck Cooper, drums.

Categorized in: Students