Although its namesake is gone, the Buddy DeFranco Jazz Festival continues to attract jazz luminaries to the University of Montana each spring to inspire and teach high school and university students.
The 36th annual festival, March 17-18, offers two evening concerts, 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday at the UM Dennison Theatre.
Thursday’s concert showcases saxophonist Erica von Kleist, pianist Reggie Thomas and bassist Marlene Rosenberg. Von Kleist is a renowned flautist, saxophonist, composer and educator who has made her mark on the music scene worldwide, and been voted several years in a row a Rising Star and Critic’s Pick in Downbeat Magazine. Thomas is one of the most in-demand pianists and educators in the country, known for his soulful, hard-swinging brand of piano. And Rosenberg is a talented and multi-faceted bass player who has played professionally with innumerable jazz luminaries, such as Kenny Barron, Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, Marian McPartland, David “Fathead” Newman, Joe Williams and Nancy Wilson, to name a few.
Friday’s headliners are trumpeter Derrick Gardner and drummer Gary Hobbs. Gardner, inspired by the hard-blowing funky bop bands of the 1960s, is working to extend that great tradition as a composer, arranger, performer, leader and educator. His career has taken him around the world performing internationally with the Count Basie Orchestra, Frank Foster’s Loud Minority Band, Harry Connick Jr.’s Big Band, and a slew of other jazz heavyweights. Hobbs is a native of the Pacific Northwest who has played professionally for over four decades, including a stint with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, and appears on over 60 recordings.
Each concert includes performances by the UM Jazz Ensemble with guest artists, the “Best Sections” High School Big Band, outstanding high school soloists, and the UM Festival Artist Sextet.
Tickets are $10-$25 nightly or $15-$40 for both; call 243-4581 or visit griztix.com. Learn more about the festival at www.umt.edu/music/Community/Festivals/Buddy DeFranco/.