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The Lafayette Jazz Ensemble will feature a rare vocal performance and an original composition at its annual fall concert 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, in the Williams Center for the Arts.

The event is free and open to the public, as is a faculty jazz concert, “Jazz for the Season,” which will take place noon Thursday, Dec. 6, at the Williams Center.

“The program is an eclectic mix, including big band chestnuts like ‘Wind Machine’ and ‘Whirlybird,’ both recorded by the Count Basie Orchestra, as well as more contemporary arrangements like ‘Samba del Gringo’ by Gordon Goodwin and ‘Freak of the Week,’ arranged by Phil Woods,” says Ken Brader, Jazz Ensemble director.

Two special presentations will include vocalist Ashley Maida ’05 singing Frank Mamtooth’s “One for Monterey” and the ensemble performing “Philly Cheese,” a new composition by former Jazz Ensemble member and current Lafayette Pep Band and Brass Ensemble director Tom DiGiovanni ’96.

“Since I’ve been at Lafayette, this is the first time we have had a student vocalist sing with the band – a span of 11 years,” notes Brader. “The program is one of our most challenging to date and the band has been working diligently to be ready by concert time.”

Student musicians include drummer Dave Castelletti ’05 (Martins Creek, Pa.); trumpet players Tom Ahrens ’02 (Haddonfield, N.J.), Rob McEwen ’05 (Morgantown, Pa.), and Greg Staszowski ’03 (South Windsor, Conn.); trombonist Michael Beatrice ’04 (Mahwah, N.J.); saxophonists Chris Michaud ’03 (Millerton, N.Y.), Elizabeth Ponder ’04 (Collegeville, Pa.), Jonathan Glick ’05 (Hamden, Conn.), Ryan Collins ’03 (Whitehouse Station, N.J.), and Jack Furlong ’05 (Hopewell, N.J.); pianist Brandon Cochenour ’03 (Lower Burrell, Pa.); and bassist Dan Miller ’03 (East Amherst, N.Y.). Steven Nesbit, associate professor and head of mechanical engineering, will play guitar.

Community members in the ensemble include trumpet players John Sutton, Vince Pettinelli, and Michael Smith; trombonists Ken Mease, Terry Stettler, and Jim Daniels; saxophonist Mike Fragassi; and drummer Chuck Cooper.

The Jazz Ensemble presents a concert each semester and participates in an annual performance with counterparts from other Lehigh Valley institutions. The spring concert features an accomplished guest artist. The goal is to give band members experience with masters of four different instruments by the time they graduate. The guest musician in each spring concert participates in the dress rehearsal and brings original arrangements.

Last year, the guest artist was noted bassist Ray Drummond, who also served as Alan and Pesky Artist-in-Residence, writing a song commissioned by Lafayette and performed by the Jazz Ensemble at the spring concert. He led several rehearsals in preparation for the performance.

“Four of us played for Ray for a few hours,” says Michaud, a double major in art and music. “We played a few songs and took some solos. It was essentially a short jam session. It was a wonderful opportunity to play with and learn from a musician like Ray. You can learn a great deal just from listening to him, his criticisms and suggestions. He noticed things about our playing that we did not hear.”

“Students who get the opportunity to play with visiting musicians are given a great deal more insight, both outward into new musical possibilities and inward as a new perspective sheds light on one’s own soul,” adds Michaud.

Considered one of the country’s top trumpet players, Brader also teaches trumpet at Lafayette. He has traveled internationally as assistant musical director, featured soloist, and lead trumpet player with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and typically tours with the orchestra each year. He has been featured as lead trumpet player with Chuck Mangione, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, and many of the world’s leading jazz performers. He is a member of the Philadelphia Pops Orchestra. His experience includes work on CDs that have won Grammy Awards, concerts in 30 countries as well as major symphony halls and jazz clubs in the United States, and continuing performances with the Philadelphia Pops Orchestra and City Rhythm Orchestra. He was a member of the band performing at last year’s Republican National Convention.

“A lot of my professional playing is transferable to what I do at Lafayette,” says Brader, who received his degree from the Eastman School of Music, where he later directed that school’s jazz ensemble. “I tell the jazz band about something that happened on a gig I played that week that can help them with their performance.”

In July 1998, Brader performed at several major international jazz festivals on the 23-day tour of eight European countries as a member of the Phil Woods Big Band. Brader performed as lead trumpet on the CD Live at Carnegie Hall – The 50th Anniversary Concert by Patti Page, which won the 1999 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance. He performed as lead trumpet and soloist in the nationally broadcast PBS TV special “Songs of Johnny Mercer” with Johnny Mathis and Melissa Manchester.

Brader’s ability to share his own performance excellence has brought individual achievement for students taking private lessons. The Pennsylvania All-State Jazz Band, which fields only four or five trumpet players, typically includes two of his students. Several years ago, Brader’s students took all four trumpet positions. His students also have taken the lead trumpet position in successive years in the All-State East Jazz Band, which draws from a 12-state area.

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