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The Scarlet & Black

Jazz legend comes to perform at Grinnell

Toni Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald and John Coltrane all played with him and tonight Grinnell’s Jazz Ensemble will too. In addition to lending his musical experience and talent to the College’s Jazz Ensemble concert tonight, Marcus Belgrave, a seasoned jazz legend on the trumpet, will also teach a jazz improvisation workshop this afternoon.

“Every year we try to bring one person in, an artist of national acclaim, and this year I ended up settling on Marcus Belgrave,” said Jazz Ensemble Director and Professor of Music Damani Phillips. “He’s been around forever [and] he’s played with just about every great that we think of and we discuss nowadays in terms of jazz history.”

Though they may not be instantly familiar with his name, many Grinnellians are more familiar than they know with Belgrave’s sound. “Everybody who has ears to hear has heard him,” Tad Boehmer ’12 said. “But they just don’t know that it’s him. His trumpet’s well known.”
While here, Belgrave will provide an improvisation workshop in Bucksbaum room 152. By bringing a master of the skill to Grinnell, Phillips hopes to introduce beginners to the art of jazz improvisation outside of an academic setting and provide a more one on one learning experience.
“One of the cornerstones of jazz is learning to improvise and it’s basically spontaneous composition with the backdrop of a familiar tune, or a chord progression,” Phillips said. “This is one of the masters of this particular skill [and] I wanted to make sure that while he was here he shared some of his strategies with the students.”

The workshop, at 12:30 in Bucksbaum 152, is geared towards melodic instrumentalists such as trumpeters, saxophonists and guitarists. Student musicians will be encouraged to actively participate in improvisation with their instruments, but the workshop is open to everyone, instrumentalist or not.

The concert itself, which will be at 7 p.m. tonight in Sebring-Lewis, will not only feature jazz improvisation but also complex arrangments chosen by Belgrave himself.

“Everything that we’re playing at the concert is composed or arranged by Thad Jones…at the request of our guest artist Marcus Belgrave,” Jackie Ernst ’11 said. “It’s very challenging [and] it’s the hardest concert I’ve ever been involved in, [but] it’s a really exciting opportunity to play with such a talented, famous musician.”

While Belgrave will provide the majority of the improvisational solos throughout the hour-long concert, Ernst will also contribute a singing scat solo—or vocal improvisation—during one of the performance pieces.

Boehmer is also excited to play alongside such a talented musician, and believes the combined efforts of the jazz ensemble and jazz master Belgrave will create a great experience for the performers and audience alike.

“Jones’ music really shows the wide range of musical styles and emotions that he was able to bring about in this writing,” Boehmer said. “We’re all very passionate about the music, so to be able to add [Belgrave] into it plus how much we like it, it’s just going to be fantastic.”
The college ensemble has been practicing since January, and hopes the culmination of their efforts tonight will show all of their hard work and dedication.

“This concert represents a significant amount of work for the students,” Phillips said. “I hope that folks…recognize and respect the amount of time and work and energy that these students have devoted into making this concert happen, [and] I hope that they consider coming out and sharing in it with us. It will become overtly clear when you experience the music the love and the passion and the enjoyment that the students have for what they’re doing.”

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