The series will be a first for trumpeter Graham Breedlove. For the LSU Jazz Faculty Trio, too.
“We’ve performed with Graham before but never in the series,” Willis Delony said.
Delony is director of the LSU School of Music. He also joins Bill Grimes and Brian Shaw to form the LSU Faculty Jazz Trio.
And the trio, along with local drummer Troy Davis, will open its annual Hot Summer Nights, Cool Jazz series on Thursday, June 23.
There will be six performances in all with Breedlove performing in the second-to-last show.
“We’re excited to have Graham back on campus,” Delony said. “He was inducted into the LSU alumni Hall of Fame this year.”
Breedlove also was named Young Alumnus for the Year in 2011 and performs with U.S. Army Blues Band.
This particular performance in the series is being billed as the “Trumpet Summit,” highlighting the trumpet skills of both Breedlove and Shaw.
But again, this is the second-to-last performance in the series. Hot Summer Nights, Cool Jazz fills its series with an interesting lineup of diverse styles.
“The series will follow the same format as in previous years,” Delony said. “We’re not changing anything.”
There usually are no rehearsals planned within this format. The players simply show up about an hour before the concert to run through a few songs.
Delony takes his place at the piano, Shaw warms up his trumpet and Grimes tunes his string bass. Davis, of course, sits at the drums, and the guest performer joins in.
Discussions give way to the opening of a song, which sometimes segues into a different song. Everything is improvised, and though the actual performance follows the warm-up, it’s never exactly the same.
Which is the beauty of Hot Summer Nights, Cool Jazz - every audience receives an original performance, something that will be heard only once. And there’s something special about that.
Guest vocalist and New Orleans native Phillip Manuel will help kick off the series on Thursday with his distinctive smooth sound.
“One of our graduate students, Brad Walker, will also be playing saxophone in that performance,” Delony said. “Brad is great musician, and we’re excited to have him as a part of this series.”
In the Friday, June 24, concert, Grimes and Delony will be joined by Steve Masakowski, Tony Dagradi and Johnny Vidacovich. This concert is titled “Return of the Titans.”
Since 1978, saxophonist Dagradi, guitarist Masakowski and drummer Vidacovich have performed as part of Astral Project, an innovative contemporary jazz ensemble based in New Orleans.
The Thursday, July 7, concert will focus on bebop with “Bebop and Beyond.” Alto saxophonist Dave Glasser will join Shaw, Grimes, Delony and Davis during this performance. Glasser has performed extensively with the Count Basie Orchestra and the Dizzy Gillespie All Stars.
For the Friday, July 8 concert, “The New Orleans Connection” will come to LSU when Don Vappie brings his guitar and banjo to the stage to join the group. Vappie’s repertoire includes jazz from the early years from such musicians as Jelly Roll Morton, the Astoria Hot Eight and King Oliver.
Then comes the “Trumpet Summit” concert on Thursday, July 21, featuring Breedlove.
And “The Grand Finale” rounds out the series on Friday, July 22. This concert features special arrangements by Delony, Grimes and Shaw, as well as a small chamber orchestra made up of LSU and local musicians.
“We don’t usually rehearse, but we’ll probably have a rehearsal before this concert, because we have more musicians involved,” Delony said. “There will be between 14 and 16 musicians in the chamber orchestra.”
This doesn’t sound like a large number, but it’s a big crowd for this series.
“We’ve tried something like it before,” Delony said. “We thought we’d try something new.”
And with Breedlove’s series premiere, there’s more than one new offering in this traditional format. But that statement isn’t totally accurate. Sure, most of the guests are veterans to the series, but each of their performances in these concerts are different.