By Laurie D. Willis
Livingstone College News Service
Every year people flock to The Big Easy for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which runs on consecutive weekends beginning in late April and features jazz and a variety of other types of music.
But with the economy still under the weather, Livingstone College officials have a solution for music lovers who might be a little short on cash: a free “Jazz on the Lawn” concert on April 18.
This year’s concert, which promises not only jazz but also R&B and “old school” music, begins at 5 p.m. on Livingstone’s picturesque front lawn. Leading off the entertainment will be the LC Jazz Ensemble, a student group led by Dr. Gary L. Callahan, a saxophonist and dean of the Holistic College. They will be followed by performances by the Livingstone College Concert Band, led by Sidney C. Sessoms, Jr., and the Livingstone College Concert Choir, led by Dr. DaVaughn L. Miller.
Rounding out the concert at approximately 8:30 p.m. will be the LC House Party Band, a group of students who will perform old school hits like “Just My Imagination” by The Temptations and “If Only You Knew” by Patti LaBelle.
But before the LC House Party Band takes center stage, headliner Jack Murray, a renowned woodwind specialist who plays the saxophone, flute, clarinet, oboe, recorder and other instruments, will perform.
Murray, a former Livingstone instructor who now teaches at Catawba College, has toured with Ray Charles, Gladys Knight, Tony Bennett, Kenny Rogers, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Linda Ronstadt, Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gorme and others.
He got his official start in music in the sixth grade by playing the clarinet but said he was aware of music way before then.
“My parents were very musical, and my mom was always playing music in the house, with everything from Marvin Gaye, Charlie Parker and Max Roach to music of the Big Band era,” Murray said. “When I was in the seventh grade I would come home and sit down and try to play along with the records.
Apparently, Murray’s attempts at playing along worked.
The award-winning artist has performed at the Gibson Ampitheatre in Universal City, Calif., and Radio City Music Hall in New York City, among other noted venues. And he has performed with some of the world’s biggest names in entertainment.
“Recently I played with Johnny Mathis, but one of the most memorable experiences I had was playing for Lou Rawls shortly before he passed away,” Murray said. “I was playing a solo and Lou was smiling and asking the guys in the band what my name was. He later looked over at me, winked and gave me a thumbs-up. Experiences like that stay with you.”
Murray said he wanted to participate in Livingstone’s spring concert because he thoroughly enjoys sharing music with enthusiastic audiences. He plans to perform tunes from his “Amalgamation” CD as well as older standards, pop music from the 70s and newer jazz.
“Jack Murray is an exceptional musician whose style will dazzle jazz fans of every age,” said Sessoms, Livingstone’s director of bands. “He has the ability to perform different types of jazz, including fusion and straight-ahead. He’s excellent at engaging the audience and compelling them to participate in his show. Everyone who comes out on April 18 to hear him will be glad they did.”
Livingstone’s 2012 spring concert lasted several days and featured renowned jazz artist Freddy Cole, brother of legendary crooner Nat King Cole.
“I’m sure there were several attendees last year whose busy schedules didn’t permit them to attend the concert for more than one night,” said Miller, chairman of Livingstone’s Music Department. “Rather than hold the concert over several days this year, we decided to have all of the groups perform on the same day.
“We’ve assembled a talented lineup of musicians to perform, including Livingstone students,” Miller continued. “I hope residents of Salisbury, Charlotte and other surrounding cities will come out to support us because I know they’ll enjoy themselves.”
Murray gives kudos to Livingstone for introducing jazz and other types of music to the public. Not only was Cole on campus last year, but in 2011 the music department brought in renowned trumpet player Vinnie Ciesielski to participate in a historic jazz concert between Livingstone and Catawba students.
“I think it’s great that Livingstone is bringing groups to the college for the students to hear, because with all of the cuts in music education nationwide it’s a struggle simply trying to keep music programs going,” Murray said. “It’s a credit to Livingstone College that they continue to positively impact students and keep music alive, and I applaud them for that. I also think it’s really commendable during these tough economic times that the college is offering such good music to the public for free.”
What: Livingstone College presents “Jazz on the Lawn”
When: Thursday, April 18
Time: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.