By Larry Reni Thomas
Chapel Hill, NC-Jazz fans are extremely pleased and very happy about what looks like a great fruitful, immensely-fulfilling, first-class music season this spring of 2011, in the Triangle" area of North Carolina (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill). It is very fortunate to have an enthusiastic, strong, large, loyal jazz fan base; three major universities and numerous colleges and universities, with jazz ensembles and jazz studies departments; schools and organizations that present jazz performances throughout the year, and last, but, certainly not least, two, 24-hour jazz radio stations. There are also several clubs and restaurants that offer live jazz every night of the week.
The 2011 spring season began with one of the most sought after jazz acts, with the appearance of Wynton Marsalis and The Lincoln Center Orchestra, January 28 and 29, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, (UNC-CH), in the majestic, historic, Memorial Hall. The group performed in Chapel Hill last season to a packed house, and did the same this year. That may the reason why the group was here for two nights. Wynton's brother, saxophonist, Branford lives in Durham, so, it was, sort of, a family reunion for the dynamic duo, who were recently given The Jazz Masters Award by the National Endowment of The Arts. It was an honor that was given to the entire Marsalis family for their contribution to the jazz world. For more information call: (919) 843-3333.
On February 11, jazz fans will be treated to a concert featuring the legendary saxophonist, Wayne Shorter, and his quartet (Brian Blade, drums; Danilo Perez, piano; John Patitucci, bass), at Page Auditorium, Duke University. The quartet just finished an highlysuccessful European tour this fall and this concert is sandwiched between a short tour from Boston to Toronto. This means that local jazz fans have proven time and time again, that this community should definitely be on the list of the places where quality touring artists, such as The Wayne Shorter Quartet, should and must come to perform. Shorter is held in high esteem by most Triangle (North Carolina) jazz aficionados. His group's concert is one of the most anticipated events of the season. They played to a near capacity crowd on their last visit to the area, and will no doubt receive the same reception this time around. Call: (919) 684-4444.
Two days after Wayne Shorter's appearance, on Sunday, February 13, Hayti Heritage Center, in Durham, will present its annual Valentine's Day Jazz Concert, featuring music from Duke, UNC-CH, and North Carolina Central University jazz bands. This year's festivities will also include a special booksigining with master saxophonist/composer, Jimmy Heath. His autobiography, I Walked With Giants, has been given excellent reviews. Heath has roots in North Carolina. His father was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, and he graduated from high school in that port city. The event will include an onstage interview of Mr. Heath by writer/radio announcer Larry Reni Thomas. For more information go to: hayti.org.
Also on tap this spring in the area will be a February 18 performance by Latin jazz pioneer pianist Eddie Palmieri and his band. This will also be a repeat for this group and will probably also be well-attended. Later, in the month of February, The Carolina Jazz Festival, an annual event of concerts, clinics and competitions, sponsored and presented by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Jazz Studies Department will happen until April 26. This year's installment will feature trombonist Conrad Herwig, drummer Joe Chambers, trumpeter Marcus Printup, and others. The theme is Embracing The Past , Present and Future of Jazz."
April, 2011, brings two excellent concerts, both on university campuses. On April 1, Jeff Tain" Watts and his group, Watts Project, which consist of Christian McBride, bass; David Sanchez, saxophone; and Nicholas Payton, trumpet; will come to the area to present a concert at Duke University's Page Auditorium (dukeperformances.org) This program will not be for the faint-hearted and will feature one of the most exciting, energetic, tasteful, much-in-demand drummers on the scene. Watts, a Brooklyn, NY, based, Pittsburgh native, formerly with Wynton and Branford Marsalis, has been performing with his own group lately. They have been getting great reviews and have worked at some of the best clubs in New York. This should be the best concert of the season because Tain" is a disciplined, focused artist who loves to swing hard and take no prisoners, and who deserves to be the leader of a group of all-star musicians.
The Watts Project should be the crowning event of the entire jazz season, except, North Carolina Central University's superb jazz festival comes up later that month. Scheduled to grace the stage of B.N. Duke Auditorium on NCCU's campus are vocalist Rene Marie and trumpeter Roy Hargrove, in addition, the award-winning North Carolina Central Jazz Ensemble will be there to almost always blow the roof off of the place. (call 919𤿪-5170 or nccu.edu/jazzstudies). Both engagements should be as supreme, slick and hip, as any in America, or the world for that matter. Who needs to go to New York City, Los Angeles, London. Paris, Tokyo or Rome when the Triangle area in central North Carolina has it all?