Nebraska Jazz Orchestra kicks off concert series

May 7th, 2009 | By | Category: Arts & Entertainment, Issue, May 7, 2009

Now in its 18th season, the Jazz in June concert series will present five Tuesday evenings of great jazz in the great outdoors on City Campus.

Organized by the Sheldon Art Association, the Berman Music Foundation and the UNL School of Music, the 2009 free jazz series, presented by Baylor Evnen, kicks off June 2 with the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra and vocalist Christine Hitt. The concerts begin at 7 p.m. and draw thousands under the trees on the plaza west of Sheldon Museum of Art.

Concertgoers are encouraged to bring blankets or lawn chairs for a relaxing and enjoyable evening surrounded by jazz, outdoor sculpture and sweet summer skies. Jazz in June performances are free to all, but concertgoers are asked to make a minimum donation of $10 per family to continue the series.

This year Jazz in June is going green to stress the benefits of an increased environmental consciousness. By reducing the sale of plastic bottles at this year’s concerts and having a more intense recycling waste effort, Jazz in June organizers hope to set a green example for public gatherings in Nebraska.

Before each concert visitors are invited to take a tour of the gardens on the UNL campus. The free tours start at 6 p.m. on the east side of Sheldon. And for youngsters, the Super Sleuth hunts inside the museum return.

In new partnership with Jazz in June, the UNL School of Music will present John Riley as artist-in-residence at its Summer Jazz Camp for accomplished high school students during the last week of June.

In conjunction with the performances, the Jazz in June Market is the ideal place to select dinner or do midweek shopping. Dinner items, fresh produce, baked goods, ice cream from the UNL Dairy Store and many more delights are available for purchase. The market opens at 5 p.m. on 12th and R streets.

For the first year, Jazz in June listeners can meet performers on Monday nights at the Red 9 bar and restaurant, 322 S. Ninth St.

For more information, go to

June 2 – Nebraska Jazz Orchestra featuring Christine Hitt

Hitt deftly delivers jazz standards with a refined jubilance. Now living in Bellevue, she began performing as a jazz pianist in the U.S. Air Force Band after earning degrees at the University of Minnesota and University of Arizona. She has performed with many jazz greats, including Tom Kennedy, Slide Hampton and Jeff Hamilton. Founded in 1975, the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra, under the musical direction of Ed Love, is one of the Midwest’s premier big bands. The ensemble’s concerts feature a variety of traditional big band compositions by jazz masters such as Woody Herman, Duke Ellington and Count Basie, reflecting the rich legacies of the Mississippi Basin territory bands.

June 9 – ZARO featuring Andrew Vogt

Specializing in high-energy jazz with occasional diversions into funk and rhythm and blues, ZARO features saxophonist Vogt, who has strong ties to Lincoln. After graduating from East High School in 1989, Vogt earned a degree in music at UNL and spent three years playing for guests nightly on Caribbean cruise ships. At the turn of the millennium he moved to Fort Collins, Colo., where he is a freelance musician and music educator. Vogt released his first solo CD, “Action Plan,” in 2006. In addition to Vogt, ZARO musicians are Zach Rothenbuelleron guitar, Oscar Desoto on drums and Roger Barnhardt on bass.

June 16 – Kendra Shank Quartet

A jazz vocalist with crystal-pure tone, powerful musicianship and elastic phrasing, Shank headlines in clubs and festivals across the United States and abroad. Shank came to jazz during a residency in the late-1980s in Paris. Her career blossomed quickly and she caught the attention of jazz legend Shirley Horn, who co-produced Shank’s debut 1994 CD, “Afterglow.” After performing at the Village Vanguard, she relocated to New York in 1997, where she recorded two albums, “Wish” in 1998 and “Reflections” in 2000, that won Top 10 Album of the Year acclaim in numerous publications. The Kendra Shank Quartet formed in 1999 includes pianist Frank Kimbrough, bassist Dean Johnson and drummer Tony Moreno. This ensemble is featured on her newest album, “Mosaic.” The Kendra Shank Quartet last performed at Jazz in June in 2007.

June 23 – Billy Wimmer Project Omaha

In 2007, the Vail Jazz Festival honored Tony Gulizia, jazz musician and longtime resident of the city. During the festival, saxophonist Bill Wimmer had the inspiration of putting together a group of friends and musicians, who have played with each other on gigs through the years, to reconnect with Gulizia in Colorado. Last May they recorded live at the Kelly Liken restaurant in Vail and the result is the “Bill Wimmer Project Omaha,” a CD released in April showcasing classic modern jazz. Project Omaha musicians include Wimmer on saxophones, Gulizia keyboards and vocals, Dave Stryker guitar, Tony Mark Luebbe base, Joey Gulizia percussion and Victor Lewis drums.

June 30 – The John Riley Trio

Grammy award-winning recording artist John Riley has enjoyed a stellar career as a jazz drummer, including concerts and recordings with artists such as John Scofield, Mike Stern, Woody Herman, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz and Miles Davis. Riley is on the faculty of Manhattan School of Music and SUNY-Purchase and has written three critically acclaimed books about jazz drumming – “The Art of Bop Drumming,” “Beyond Bop Drumming” and “The Jazz Drummer’s Workshop.” He is also a winner of the 2004 and 2005 Modern Drummer Magazine Readers Poll. Dick Oatts on saxophone and Gary Versace on keyboards complete this standout trio. Oatts, who grew up in Iowa and lives in New York, has recorded and toured with big bands and small groups nationally and internationally since the late 1970s. He is a professor of Jazz Studies at Temple University. Versace has appeared as a featured soloist and sideman on more than 50 recordings in the past five years.

— By Tom White, Sheldon Museum of Art

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave Comment