April is Jazz Appreciationmonth. On April 25 and 26, TylerJunior College hosted the TJCJazz Festival that included a twodayclinic for local high and middleschool jazz musicians, two freeconcerts, and a renowned musicalguest artist to celebrate this uniqueAmerican art form.
Many guest artists have beenspotlighted at the TJC Jazz Festival.Musicians such as VinceDeMartino, John Fedchock, andMiles Osland have worked withstudents by day and electrified thestage at night. The guest artist isthe headliner of the festival, and isusually what draws people to thefestival.
This year, TJC showcased”Blue Lou” Marini and some of hisoriginal music. An accomplishedmusician, Marini has played saxophonewith the Blues BrothersBand, the Saturday Night LiveBand, and artists such as WoodyHerman, Stan Kenton, James Taylor,Doc Severinsen and ArethaFranklin.
Director of the Jazz Bands,Heather Mensch, said that peoplewere shocked about Lou Marinicoming to TJC, so they markedtheir calendars this year.
Marini is a University ofNorth Texas graduate. While atUNT, Marini became friends withTJC’s Instructor of Music FranklinKimlicko. When it came timeto select a guest artist for the festivalthis year, Kimlicko suggestedMarini.
“He’s been around. He’s donemany, many great things,” Kimlickosaid. “He has a lot of experiencein jazz.”
Over the past 40 years, Kimlickoand Marini played dozens ofvenues together including a tour ofMexico, and at the White Houseduring the Lyndon B. Johnsonadministration. Kimlicko believedthat Marini would be a good guestartist to have because he has playedwith a lot of well-known groups,and he is a great musician.
“He’s electric. He has greataudience appeal.” Kimlicko said.Kimlicko added that Marini willwork well with the students and beinspiring to them.
During the week before thefestival, the TJC Jazz Bands gotthe chance to hang out and workone-on-one with Marini duringtheir classes. The Jazz Bands alsoperformed on stage Friday, April25 and Saturday, April 26 acting asthe backing bands for Marini. Saturdaynight opened with an additionalperformance by the Region21 All-Region Jazz Ensemble. TheAll-Region ensemble includedmembers from the Robert E. Lee,John Tyler, Jacksonville, and Hallsvillehigh schools.
“It’s very different to sitthrough a concert than to perform.You remember more from theadrenaline rush from playing thanjust listening,” Mensch said.Mensch remembered her experiencesperforming on stage asshe tapped her knee to the musicthat was drifting through the bandhall.
“This is so exciting,” she said.
Not only did the Jazz Bandsget the chance to work with andplay for Marini, but local highand middle school band studentsgot that chance, as well. The JazzFestival allowed the students tocome to TJC and play music onthe stage, and be critiqued by theprofessional jazz musician.
The students from surroundingareas such as Carthage, Quitman,Texarkana, and the All-Region Jazz Ensemble receivedone-on-one interaction withMarini during the day. The pointin bringing these students to TJC,Mensch said, is to encourage gettingyounger people interested injazz music because not all schoolshave a jazz program. This was thefirst time the Jazz Festival hadbeen spread out over two days,so the turnout was expected to begreater than ever.
Jacob Wellman, a graduatingsophomore at TJC, is an alto saxophonistfor the TJC Jazz EnsembleI. At first, playing with Marini wasintimidating, Wellman said whenhe first heard Marini play he didn’tknow if he could ever be able tosound like that. It wasn’t until afterWellman got the chance to visitwith and practice with Marini thatWellman said, “The point of beinga musician is to come together andshare music.”
Come together, they did. Thejazz concerts were packed eachnight with jazz lovers and curiousspectators alike. The concertsplayed during the Jazz Festivalfeatured several different styles ofmusic including funk-rock, swing,and Latin. Featured numbers included”Pick up the Pieces” and “Ithought About You.” After eachsong the cheers and whistles got alittle louder, and by the end of thesecond concert there were a totalof six standing ovations. Wellmansaid he felt like after they playedthe concerts, the TJC jazz bandsproved that they could play justas well as the jazz bands at majoruniversities.
“We can hang with the bestof them,” he said.
Surprisingly, Marini wasn’tthe only show stealer with his livelysaxophone and flute solos. Severalmembers of the jazz bands elicitedcheers from the crowds with theirown solos. Wellman was amongthe members who got the chanceto spotlight themselves during theconcerts when he played a duetwith Marini. Wellman said it wasa big honor for him because hedidn’t play before or after Marini,but actually with him.
“It is probably one of themost high-energy shows in town.There’s never a dull moment. It isthe only concert in town whereyou can interact with the musicianson stage,” Mensch said. Infact, the audience members wereencouraged to clap during the performances.Wellman felt the concertswent great both nights, butthe jazz bands were more comfortableby Saturday night.
“They were great. They werethe most fun concerts I’ve playedin the past three years. I’m reallygoing to miss playing with the jazzband,” Wellman said. Wellmanadded that the whole Jazz Festivalexperience was “Unforgettable.”