FAYETTEVILLE — The 14th annual KUAF Summer Jazz Concert Series begins at 8 p.m. tonight (Saturday) with a performance from the Aaron Goldberg Trio in the Starr Theater at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville.
The series will feature one jazz ensemble for each of the three months of summer: the Aaron Goldberg Trio with Matt Penman and Greg Hutchinson on June 30; the compositions of James Greeson July 28; and Vic Juris August 11. All tickets are $20-30, with proceeds benefiting high school and college students of jazz studies through the North Arkansas Jazz Society (NAJS) scholarship program, making the purchase tax deductible.
Aaron Goldberg has quite the reputation. Critics herald him as one of the most important jazz pianists of the 21st century and his band among the most exciting trios in jazz. At age 38, Goldberg has performed with Wynton Marsalis, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and Joshua Redman, among others. His talents extend to that of composer, bandleader and sideman.
The Goldberg concert is “an opportunity to hear big-city jazz,” said Robert Ginsburg, president of the NAJS. “They epitomize the New York jazz scene.”
This is a quintessential part of the concert series, pulling talent from the iconic city.
“New York is the melting pot of music,” Ginsberg said. “Clubs, lofts, studio, talent … it’s a magical formula for a (jazz) stew pot. Every serious musician spends time in New York.”
Tickets to the Goldberg concert are $30 for public cabaret table seats, $25 for public general admissions, $25 for NAJS member cabaret table seats and $20 for NAJS members general admission. Prices are the same for the July 28 and Aug. 11 shows.
The second concert is the annual Composer’s Showcase, this time with a local twist. The Compositions of Dr. James Greeson will feature the works of the University of Arkansas professor and composer through the capable hands of the Claudia Burson Trio, the Fayetteville Jazz Collective, Gypsy Swing group, Hogtown Hotclub, an 18-piece big band and more.
“We have an opportunity to recognize the talent that’s right under our nose,” Ginsburg said. “This is a chance for them to perform without a big screen behind them and a waitress in front of them.”
Musicians featured in the series seem to grow a larger following as a result.
“The exciting element of this series is having a range of ensembles, from soloists to an 18-piece big band interpreting his work,” Ginsgerg said. “In the past, it was original composition by someone within the group that was performing,” meaning that the Composer Showcase featured more than one composer.
The series’ finale concert will be by legendary jazz guitarist Vic Juris. He taught himself to play at the age of 10 and went on to perform with jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Mel Torme and Sarah Vaughan.
Juris plans to stay in Arkansas for several days and will give a handful of one-on-one sessions, commonly known as master classes, with local guitarists.
“He’s a great guy,” Ginsburg said of Juris. “He loves Arkansas and loves Fayetteville.”
Money raised from the concerts benefit students of the NAJS summer camp, coordinated by Jamey Abersold.
Abersold brings some of the greatest jazz musicians from all over the world to teach intensive classes for high school and college-age musicians over the course of one to two weeks.
“After students realized the depth and width of this art form through the camp, they’ve come back and let me know they’ve pursued music in college and their careers,” Ginsburg said, emphasizing the extent of the impact left by the audience.