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No fooling: Bianchi and Hammond B-3 join Bethel jazz for April 1 concert

September 11th, 2017

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – After an all-day workshop April 1, the Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble (MKJE) and Bethel College Jazz Ensemble I will welcome clinician and guest artist Pat Bianchi and his Hammond B-3 organ for an evening concert.

The event is at 7:30 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts Center on the Bethel campus. There is no admission charge, but a freewill offering will be taken to support Bethel jazz study and performance.

Bianchi is at Bethel as part of MKJE’s annual jazz workshop, which includes clinics with the guest artist and performances during the day by Bethel jazz faculty, says James Pisano, who directs MKJE, Bethel Jazz I and jazz combos.

The Grammy®-nominated Bianchi, a native of Rochester, New York, began playing organ at age 7 – unlike many organists, not starting with piano study (which he picked up several years later). He comes from a family in which his father and both grandfathers were or are working musicians.

While in high school, Bianchi studied classical piano in the Eastman School of Music preparatory program and then went to the Berklee School of Music in Boston, graduating in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in jazz piano performance.

Bianchi then spent three years as house pianist at the El Chapultepec club in Denver. After he decided to focus solely on organ, a brief stint in New York City brought him to the attention of legendary saxophonist and NEA Jazz Master Lou Donaldson, with whom Bianchi continues to collaborate.

Bianchi also played with drummer Alvin Queen and his group for almost two years, before returning to Denver to take a position on the faculty of the University of Colorado-Boulder’s jazz studies program. During this time, he recorded his first album as a leader, East Coast Roots.

Bianchi returned to New York in 2008. He officially joined Donaldson’s quartet in 2009 and then jazz guitar icon Pat Martino’s trio in 2011.

Bianchi is featured on numerous recordings such as saxophonist Tim Warfield’s albums Sentimental Journey and One For Shirley and guitarist Chuck Loeb’s Plain and Simple.

Bianchi has collaborated with drummer Ralph Peterson Jr. on The Unity Project , a tribute to organist Larry Young and his album Unity. Bianchi was featured, recording much of this material, on Peterson’s CD Outer Reaches.

Bianchi’s second recording as a leader, Back Home, features Peterson along with Terell Stafford, Wayne Escoffery, Carmen Intorre Jr. and Gilad Hekselman.

While still actively performing with Martino and Donaldson, Bianchi also leads a number of different groups, including his trio (with whom he recorded his latest CD, A Higher Standard, 2015), and continues to promote his all-star organ group The Organic Collective.

For the April 1 concert, Bethel Jazz I’s set list is “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise,” arranged by Robert McCurdy; “Play it Back” by Lonnie Smith, arranged by Ben Markley; and four by Thad Jones: “Three and One,” “Tip Toe,” “Mean What You Say” and “Central Park North.”

MKJE will play “Stolen Moments” by Oliver Nelson, arranged by Paul Jennings, and “Jada” by Nelson; “Cerulean Sky” by Fred Sturm; “Manteca” by Dizzy Gillespie, arranged by Mike Tomaro; and “Sidewinder” by Lee Morgan, arranged by Mark Taylor.

MKJE is an auditioned high school honors jazz band in residence at Bethel College. MKJE usually plays a fall and spring concert at Bethel, often in collaboration with one or more Bethel jazz ensembles and frequently featuring a guest artist or artists.

Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble personnel are: saxophones, Michael Klein (Derby High School), Justen Schroeder (Newton High School), Jon Kohl (Maize High School), Sarah Pham (McPherson High School) and Devin Hatfield (Valley Center High School); trumpets, Paxton Leaf (McPherson), Michaela Ensor (Derby), Robert Mabrey (Hesston High School) and Adrian Rogers (Newton); trombones, Justin Koegeboehn (Maize), Zach Wiens (Goessel High School), Sam Bartel (Hesston) and Freddie Loeffler (Hesston); guitar, Brady Volkmann (Bishop Carroll High School, Wichita) and Ben Peyton (Newton); bass, Jules White (Wichita Collegiate High School); and drums, Vaughn Craddock (Collegiate).

Bethel College Jazz Ensemble I personnel are: saxophones, Neil Smucker, North Newton, Ben Wiens, Goessel, Westen Gesell, Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Matt Lind, Harrisonburg, Virginia; trumpets, Braden Unruh, Goessel, Tim Regier, Newton, Connor Born, North Newton, and Alec Loganbill, Hesston; trombones, Andrew Thiesen, Newton, Billie Selichnow, Wichita, and Josh Janzen, Henderson, Nebraska; guitar, Jayce Yoder, Topeka; bass, Eli Brockway, McPherson; piano, Matt Graber, Freeman, South Dakota; and drums, Adam Voth, Goddard.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2015–16 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2015–16. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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