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Jazz Festival celebrates 50th anniversary at ND

Gene Noone | Friday, February 22, 2008

The annual Notre Dame Collegiate Jazz Festival (CJF) celebrates its 50th anniversary in Washington Hall this weekend, and features new judges, bands and performances this year.

“To celebrate the 50th anniversary, we have added a few things that we normally wouldn’t do,” said senior Chris Francica, who is co-directing the festival with senior Katie Helm.

The oldest college jazz festival in the nation, CJF will feature 12 university bands that will be judged by seven acclaimed musicians. In past years, the festival featured only 10 bands and five judges.

Francica said the additions will make the performances more exciting and will allow the performing groups to get better feedback on their playing.

“This year, since we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary, we had a higher volume of bands and higher quality of jazz programs apply to the festival,” he said. “Geographically, we have groups from as far away as Texas, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, as well as more local groups from universities in Michigan and Illinois.”

The festival will also include performances from the African-American Jazz Caucus/Historically Black Colleges and Universities All-Star Big Band. This band features the best jazz musicians from the nation’s historically black colleges and universities who come together to perform at select locations throughout the year.

Another addition to the festival is the diversity of jazz music that will be played. From classical to contemporary jazz, all-percussion steel drum bands to a salsa jazz band, and from groups of 20 people to less than 10 people, this year’s CJF will be unlike any past festivals.

Francica said the biggest change this year is the addition of a new concert block on Saturday from 1-5 pm. In previous years, the festival only ran Friday and Saturday nights, but it will now feature four extra hours of performance time on Saturday afternoon.

Within this added time will be a student jam session where musicians from several of the visiting bands will gather onstage for an hour-long set.

“Nothing like this has ever been done before at CJF, so we expect it to be an exciting performance,” Francica said.

Unlike other collegiate festivals, CJF is a non-competitive festival that focuses on learning. The seven judges will be critiquing the performances in private feedback sessions directly after the performances.

The judges include Jamey Aebersold, saxophone, Gene Bertoncini, guitar, Jim McNeely, piano, Dan Morgenstern, writer and historian, Larry Ridley, bass, Marvin Stamm, trumpet, and Clif Wallace, drums. Each of these judges performed at CJF when they were college students.

Aside from judging, these seven musicians will perform in their own session Saturday night at 10 p.m.

Bands chosen for the festival were selected from a group over 200 applicants who were asked to submit a CD of their performances. Groups were chosen based on their talent level and diversity of sound, Francica said.

In past years, CJF has hosted jazz greats like Henry Mancini, Cecil and Dee Dee Bridgewater, John Faddis, the Clayton brothers, and 2008 Album of the Year Grammy-winner, Herbie Hancock.

“For 50 years Notre Dame has been bringing top-tier jazz programs to campus to celebrate this American-born style of music, and we are committed to keeping the standard high,” Francica said.

All CJF events are free for Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, and Holy Cross students. Tickets are required for Friday’s 7-11 p.m. session and Saturday’s 1-11 p.m. session and are available in the Lafortune Box Office.