Sunday, January 12, 2014

Hailey Niswanger Masterclass at PSU

Hailey Niswanger
Even if you have a stellar full time or adjunct faculty at your college or university(which we do in the Jazz Department at Portland State University), sometimes it's great for the students to hear a different perspective on jazz educational topics. Sometimes, it's good to hear the same perspective from a different source! We have been having some cool masterclasses this school year; I posted regarding the Mike Clark event, and we've had some others. David Valdez, who is actually adjunct at PSU, has been giving some great and valuable masterclasses since he's been on the faculty; Valdez has so much chord-scale material that students walk out of the room with their minds thoroughly blown. Chris Brown, a prodigious drummer, saxophonist, pianist, and composer, who is a Portland native and resident, gave an exciting lecture/demonstration recently. We have had two visiting bassists who have dazzled our students with their wisdom; Marcus Shelby gave a wonderful masterclass on the blues, and Clark Sommers talked and demonstrated some deep rhythms.

This term, we kicked it off with alto and soprano saxophonist Hailey Niswanger. A native of West
Linn, Oregon, Niswanger was a star pupil at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and has gone on to the professional jazz world of New York City. She has been touring with Esperanza Spalding, and also with Mike Clark's band, in addition to leading her own groups. She was back in town for the holidays, and also to record her third CD. I thought it would be great if she could come and do something for our Area Recital period.

We played some and Niswanger talked about her career and her
musical vision; we alternated like that for a while. Niswanger performed with the Park Avenue Group, which is a small group led by yours truly. The group features Nicole Glover on tenor saxophone, Jon Lakey on Bass, and Brandon Braun on drums. It's a learning experience for them to play with different guest artists in a casual, yet intense performance situation. I was impressed with how well Glover and Niswanger phrased together as a front line; hopefully, we'll get to try that configuration again in the future. Also, Nilswanger is an incredible sight-reader; she was reading my tunes for the first time for the masterclass, and they were not Eb charts, meaning that she had to transpose at sight, which adds another level of challenge.

Below is a video of one of the songs we performed. ( It's called "The Confident One," and it is a contrafact. Try to figure out what the changes are based on!) Just to let you know, we have many more masterclasses and performances this term at PSU. Our Area Recital time is 5-7 on Tuesdays in Room 47 in Lincoln Hall. Future performances and events include:

January 14  Kerry Politzer Masterclass 5-7 Lincoln Hall 47 Free
January 21   Scott Cutshall Survivor's Suite 5-7  Lincoln Hall 47  Free
January 28   Joe Manis Organ Trio 5-7 Lincoln Hall 47 Free
February 4    Guitar Heroes/ Lords Of Justice 5-7 Lincoln Hall 47 Free
February 11   Bebop/Hard Bop/Contemporary  5-7 Lincoln Hall 47  Free
Feburary 18   Persian Jazz Ensemble/Heppners  5-7 Lincoln Hall 47 Free
Thursday Feb 20  Jazz Conversation with Ahmad Jamal.  12-1 Lincoln Hall 75 Free
February 25   Ken Ollis Free Ensemble/ Colligan Men 5-7 Lincoln Hall 47 Free
Saturday Mar 1 and  Sunday Mar 2, 12-6 pm LH 75- PDX Jazz Festival Student Stage
March 4     Mark Simon Masterclass 5-7 Lincoln Hall 47
March 11    MUS 194/Vocalists 5-7 Lincoln Hall 47

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