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UNT Insider | October 2008 Issue | Jazz greats return to UNT

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Jazz greats return to UNT to honor two retired directors

From a UNT News Service Press Release

Jazz greats

Neil Slater, Paris Rutherford and James Riggs

Jazz stars from across the country will return to their roots at UNT Nov. 22 to pay tribute to two recently retired directors.

Neil Slater and James Riggs retired in August after lengthy careers leading UNT's two top jazz bands the One O'Clock Lab Band and Two O'Clock Lab Band, respectively. UNT will honor Slater, a noted composer, and Riggs, who also served as Regents Professor of saxophone at UNT, in a special jazz reunion concert in the UNT Coliseum. A program celebrating their achievements will begin at 6 p.m., followed by the concert at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $5 to $60.

"Neil Slater and James Riggs have brought our jazz studies program to a peak of excellence that we will strive to build on for the future," says John Murphy, interim chair of the UNT Division of Jazz Studies. "Their leadership has set a standard of artistry that is a model not only for us but for jazz educators nationally. We invite alumni and friends of UNT jazz to join us to celebrate their achievements and to kick off the jazz leadership fund drive, which will support jazz studies scholarships for many years to come."

The evening includes performances by four alumni bands, organized by decade from the 2000s to the 1970s and earlier. A few noted alumni who will perform include:

  • trombonist Tom "Bones" Malone, a member of the CBS Orchestra on the Late Show With David Letterman and an original Saturday Night Live band member whose feature-film credits include The Blues Brothers
  • saxophonist Dan Higgins, who has recorded with such artists as Phil Collins, Cher and Randy Newman
  • prolific composer/arranger Mark Taylor
  • trombonist Scott Whitfield, who has played with Nat Adderley, the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra and more
  • drummer Earl Harvin, who has worked with such artists and producers as Seal and the French band Air
  • saxophonist Dave Pietro, who has toured or recorded with the bands of Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson and more
  • trumpeter Frank Greene, who has played lead trumpet for Ferguson, the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni Orchestra and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and for many Broadway shows and films
  • composer Alan Baylock, chief arranger for the U.S. Air Force Airmen of Note and leader of his own big band
  • guitarist Kevin Brunkhorst, who teaches in the music department of St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia
  • drummer Ari Hoenig, who has played with the Jean Michel Pilc Trio and the Kenny Werner Trio
  • pianist Jon Ballantyne, who has performed with Paul Bley, Joe Lovano and Joe Henderson
  • bassist Matt Wigton, a recent graduate who is active on the New York jazz scene

For a complete list, visit http://www.jazz.unt.edu/?q=node/670.

Another UNT legend Paris Rutherford, director of the UNT Jazz Singers is slated to retire at the end of the 2008-09 school year. Rutherford will be honored in a special event in May.

Biography of Neil Slater
Slater, who retired in August as professor of music at UNT and chair of the jazz studies division, has created compositions for jazz ensembles, symphony, mixed chamber groups, a cappella chorus and theater. Slater, a Grammy nominee, has been recognized by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers each year since 1987. A pianist and former member of the Stan Kenton Orchestra-in-Residence program, he has recorded and performed with such artists as Buddy DeFranco, Dave Weckl, Mel Lewis and Joe Morello. Before joining UNT, Slater founded the jazz studies program and established master's and bachelor's degree programs in jazz at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. In July, Slater led the One O'Clock Lab Band on a major tour of prominent European jazz festivals before his retirement.

Biography of James Riggs
Riggs, who retired in August as UNT Regents Professor of saxophone and director of the Two O'Clock Lab Band, has taught many award-winning saxophonists, including first-place winners and finalists in the North American Saxophone Alliance Young Artist Competition, finalists in the Thelonious Monk Jazz Saxophone Competition, and winners in Down Beat magazine's Student Music Awards in solo and ensemble categories. Riggs has performed regularly with the Dallas and Fort Worth symphony orchestras and has appeared as a jazz soloist with the U.S. Navy Commodores in Washington, D.C. Riggs is the leader and founder of the Official Texas Jazz Orchestra, a large jazz ensemble made up of musicians from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. As a freelance artist, he has performed with Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Nancy Wilson, Henry Mancini, Nelson Riddle and others.

About UNT's jazz studies program
UNT offered the nation's first bachelor's degree program in jazz studies in 1947, and the university's graduate jazz studies program is consistently rated among the nation's best. The Grammy-nominated UNT One O'Clock Lab Band is the premiere ensemble of UNT's jazz studies program in the College of Music. The band has performed and toured throughout the world, including Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, Thailand and the Netherlands.

What: UNT Jazz Reunion Concert Alumni will reunite on campus to perform in honor of the two recently retired UNT jazz legends Neil Slater and James Riggs. The current One O'Clock and Two O'Clock lab bands also will perform. Proceeds will help establish jazz studies endowed scholarship funds.

When: 6 p.m. program; 7:30 p.m. concert Nov. 22 (Saturday)

Where: UNT Coliseum, southeast corner of North Texas Boulevard and Highland Street

Cost: $60 per person for floor seating at tables set for 8; includes dinner
$20 for lower-tier seating, central sections
$15 for lower-tier seating, outside sections
$5 (student) / $10 (non-student) upper-tier seating

Contact: For $20 and $60 tickets and group ticket sales in all categories, contact the jazz studies office at 940-565-3743. For $5, $10 and $15 tickets, contact the University Union at 940-565-3805.

UNT News Service Press Release
Ellen Rossetti can be reached at ellen.rossetti@unt.edu.

Read other stories in this issue:

October 2008

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