From the outside looking in, the Knox Winter Jazz Series seems simple Ñ it mostly revolves around a singular concert with a student-centered discussion preceding it, the most recent performance given by percussionist Juan Pastor and his band Chinchano. However, it is more like a crown jewel in a small sea of diverse events, both in the time frame of Winter Term and the entire Knox academic year.
Throughout the year there are major events such as the week-long Jerome Mirza Jazz Residency in the fall, the Winter Jazz Series and the three-day Rootabaga Jazz Festival in April. In addition to these annual events, the Cherry Street Combo as well as other groups play every Thursday night at Fat Fish Pub, and for the first time this year, a trip to China will take place for the Knox Jazz Ensemble, or KJE.
The purpose of the Winter Jazz Series is “definitely to bring jazz to more people,” said Summer Lin, a post-baccalaureate fellow who has been involved in the jazz program for a few years now.
Jazz Combo Director Andrew Crawford explained that the Winter Jazz Series was inspired by the Mirza Jazz Residency held each fall, which involves a guest artist working with students throughout the week and a final concert to conclude the week’s events. Guest jazz groups that have come include the Ben Allison Quartet, the Donny McAslin Quartet Ñ who were recently on David Bowie’s final album Ñ and Matt Wilson’s Quartet. The fall residency involves lectures, classes, meals and listening sessions, but out of a need to tie the year together, the Winter Series was born.
Since the Series primarily takes place in a concert setting, Crawford wanted to bring in elements or ideas that “might not work in other venues.” Due to the widespread impact of jazz across the world, the Series aims to bring in diverse representatives of the art and show that variety to the Knox community.
On Jan. 9, Pastor, an Afro-Peruvian drummer, brought his culture and brand of jazz to Knox. Along with this, there will be the annual collaboration between Bradley University and Knox, which will take place on Feb. 22.
For Associate Professor of Music and Director of the Rootabaga Jazz Festival, Nikki Malley, gathering the acts together is, “one of the most fun parts of my job.”
Jazz is a passion for both her and Crawford. They are, together, responsible for creating the Fall and Winter Series, and they both find joy in finding new artists that fit with the Series’ mission of bringing a global connection to jazz at Knox. Young rising stars promoting their art and culture are much like students celebrating their identities and talents at Knox, and therefore mesh perfectly with the college audience.