In conjunction with its fall exhibit, the Wexner Center for the Arts will begin playing the blues by kicking off its Fall Jazz Series this week.
Chuck Helm, director of performing arts at the Wexner Center, said the jazz series is a “phenomenal” opportunity for students to see some of the best artists in jazz music today.
“No two of these shows will sound anything remotely alike,” Helm said.
The Fall Jazz Series’ venue, The Wexner Center’s Performance Space, is to be set up like a jazz or cabaret club, making for an authentic experience, Helm said.
“The Performance Space doesn’t have fixed seating,” Helm said. “This is a completely different setup than we do for rock shows, than we do at a dance or theater show. We specifically designed a setting that’s more like a jazz club. It’s got tables and chairs that run straight up to the bandstand.”
Helm said the Fall Jazz Series will be more of a social experience rather than a formal concert.
“One thing about jazz is the kind of interplay between the musicians and how they feed off of the crowd’s reaction,” Helm said. “You’ve got to have an intimate environment to really make that work. If people are sitting 20 rows away in a recital hall, it’s hard to get that kind of vibe in a room.”
Saxophonist Joe Lovano and trumpeter Dave Douglas — accompanied by pianist Lawrence Fields, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Joey Baron — are scheduled to be the first musicians to hit the stage Tuesday at the Wexner Center’s Performance Space, the venue that will host the entire series, which runs through December.
Other artists in the series include jazz keyboardist Brad Mehldau and drummer/percussionist Mark Guiliana, who are slated to collaborate Oct. 23 by exploring “fresh dimensions in jazz-funk with slinky dance grooves injected into the mix of their heady freewheeling sound,” according to a Wexner Center press release.
Also set to perform is the Byron Stripling Quartet, led by trumpeter Byron Stripling, who is also the artistic director of the Columbus Jazz Orchestra. The Quartet is scheduled to perform Nov. 22 and is to also feature Bobby Floyd on organ, Dan Faehnle on guitar and Jeff Hamilton on drums.
Finally, Bill Frisell’s Big Sur Quintet, which features guitarist and composer Bill Frisell, are scheduled to perform Dec. 3. Frisell’s quintet, which borrows sounds from chamber jazz, country, new classical and folk music, according to the Wexner Center’s website, is also set to feature string players Jenny Scheinman, Eyvind Kang and Hank Roberts and percussionist Rudy Royston.
Matthew Urbanek, a third-year in music education and also a trumpet player in the OSU Jazz Ensemble, said he is looking forward to the Byron Stripling Quartet performance.
“(Stripling) is the artistic director of the Columbus Jazz Orchestra and a very prominent jazz trumpet player in the Columbus area,” Urbanek said. “He is someone I’ve been looking forward to meeting, or at least watch perform in person.”
Urbanek said the Fall Jazz Series could offer students a taste of music that is both uncommon in its American heritage and its ability to produce musical creativity.
“(Jazz) allows for a form of musical expression that no genre can match through improvisation,” Urbanek said. “Jazz improvisation, no matter what level a student is at, really gives a student a chance to show off his own musical voice, ideas and interpretation by forcing him to get creative and find ways to play over tunes.”
Tickets for each individual performance cost $13 for students, $16-18 for members and $18-22 for the general public, according to the Wexner Center website.
Because each performance will only hold around 150 people, attendees are encouraged to buy their tickets early, Wexner Center marketing and media assistant Jennifer Wray said.
Tickets to the Wexner Center’s Fall Jazz Series are on sale now and can be purchased on the Wexner Center’s website.