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Trombone legend Gordon to join jazz groups for workshop, concert

September 11th, 2017

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – It’s become a spring highlight at Bethel College – the annual Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble Workshop concert, featuring a special guest art.

This year’s concert will be March 31 at 7:30 p.m., and will be with trombone great Wycliffe Gordon.

The event takes place in Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts Center and will also include Bethel College Jazz Ensemble I.

There is no admission charge, but a freewill offering will be taken to support Bethel jazz study and performance.

Wycliffe Gordon is at Bethel as part of Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble’s (MKJE) annual day-long workshop, where MKJE members attend clinics with the guest artist during the day and perform with the guest and Bethel’s Jazz I in the evening concert.

Jim Pisano, director of jazz studies at Bethel, also directs MKJE and Bethel Jazz I.

“[Gordon] is an amazing trombonist and vocalist,” Pisano said. “He’s going to fill up that hall with sound – it’s going to be amazing.

“He’s very entertaining with how he delivers the entertainment side of jazz via singing, and the way he plays the trombone and improvises. It’s going to be a very high-energy event, I can tell you that.”

Audiences and critics alike have acclaimed Gordon for his mastery of the plunger mute, exceptional technique and signature sound that have made him one of the top trombonists of his generation.

The Downbeat Critics Poll awarded Gordon “Best Trombone” in 2016, 2014, 2013 and 2012, while the Jazz Journalists Association named him “Trombonist of the Year” in 2016 (his ninth time to receive the honor).

In 2015, Gordon was “Best Trombone” in the Jazzed Reader’s Poll, received the Satchmo Award from the Sarasota Jazz Club and the Louis Armstrong Memorial Prize from the Swing Jazz Culture Foundation, and was named Artist of the Year by the Augusta (Georgia) Arts Council. He is also a past recipient of the ASCAP Foundation Vanguard Award, among others.

In addition to his successful solo career, Gordon tours regularly with his quintet, Wycliffe Gordon and His International All-Stars, headlining at legendary jazz venues and performing arts centers throughout the world.

He is commissioned frequently, and has an extensive catalog of original compositions that span the various timbres of jazz and chamber music. His arrangement of the theme song to NPR’s “All Things Considered” is heard daily across the globe, while his show “Jazz a la Carte” was named one of the “five best moments in jazz” by the Wall Street Journal.

Gordon?s most recent recording, Within These Gates of Mine, is the original soundtrack and film score for the 1920s silent film Within Our Gates by African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. His arrangement of “Bill Bailey,” from his CD Dreams of New Orleans, can be heard in the recent film Race, a biopic of track legend Jesse Owens.

Gordon’s other releases, including Somebody New (a big-band album featuring the DiMartino/Osland Jazz Orchestra), Hello Pops – A Tribute to Louis Armstrong and The Intimate Ellington: Ballads and Blues, continue to earn rave reviews.

Artists across the globe continue to seek out Gordon’s musical expertise. He has appeared on projects with Wynton Marsalis, Paul Simon, Natalie Merchant, Rene Marie, Dianne Reeves, Anat Cohen, Ricky Skaggs, Arturo Sandoval and Doc Severinsen, among many others.

In addition to performing, composing and recording, Gordon is one of America?s most committed music educators. He serves as artist-in-residence at Augusta (Georgia) University, returned for a residency at Columbia College in Chicago in 2015, and continues as music director for the LALPC (Louis Armstrong Legacy Project).

Gordon has published several books, including This Rhythm On My Mind, with accompanying CD (2012), and Sing It First (2011), his unique approach to playing the trombone. He has worked extensively with young musicians and audiences from elementary schools to universities all over the world, through master classes, clinics, workshops, children’s concerts and lectures.

Both MKJE and Bethel Jazz I are fresh from performances for the Kansas Music Educators Association in February.

For the March 31 concert, Bethel Jazz I’s set list is “Three and One” by Thad Jones; “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” by Sigmund Romberg, arranged by Robert McCurdy; and three by Gordon: “The Woogie,” Wishing Well” (arranged by John Mahoney) and “Hallelujah Shout.”

MKJE will play “Easy to Love” by Cole Porter, arranged by Sammy Nestico; “Doozy” by Benny Carter; and two by Gordon: “Something New” and “Wat You Dealin’ Wit.”

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

Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble personnel are: saxophones, Brandon Ray, alto (Maize South High School), Michael Klein, alto (Derby High School), Jon Kohl, tenor (Maize High School), Caleb Abbott, tenor (Maize), and Mason Klish, baritone (Derby); trumpets, Paxton Leaf (McPherson High School), Jamie Black (Derby), Michaela Ensor (Derby) and Adam Schmidt (Derby); trombones, Justin Koegeboehn (Maize), Sam Bartel (Hesston High School), Adam Kroeker (Augusta High School) and Drew Walden (Wichita East High School); piano, Hadley Hageman (McPherson); guitar, Brady Volkmann (Bishop Carroll High School, Wichita) and Ben Peyton (Newton High School); bass, Jules White (Wichita Collegiate High School); and drums, Talin Goebel (McPherson).

Bethel College Jazz Ensemble I personnel are: saxophones, Neil Smucker, North Newton, Matt Lind, Harrisonburg, Virginia, Westen Gesell, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Zane Richter, McPherson, and Ben Wiens, Goessel; trumpets, Braden Unruh, Goessel, Evan Koch, North Newton, Connor Born, North Newton, and Alec Loganbill, Hesston; trombones, Andrew Thiesen, Newton, Billie Selichnow, Wichita, Brendan Ostlund, Mount Hope, and Nate Kroeker (bass), Augusta; guitar, Jayce Yoder, Topeka; bass, Eli Brockway, McPherson; piano, Matt Graber, Freeman, South Dakota; drums, Chuck Lenley, Kansas City, Missouri, and Micah Miller; and Elizabeth Friesen Birky, Denver, vocals.

Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas listed in the analysis of top colleges and universities, the Washington Monthly National Universities-Liberal Arts section and the National Liberal Arts College category of U.S. News & World Report, all for 2016–17. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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