WINNIPEG pianist and jazz professor Will Bonness is heading back to the scene of one of his teenage triumphs.
The skilled musician, in his late 20s, will return to the Telluride Jazz Festival in Colorado, Aug. 1-3, to perform in a 20th-anniversary all-star band comprised of seven musicians who made their debut at the fest as high school students.
Bonness is pleased to have been invited as Bob Montgomery, founder and director of the Telluride Student Jazz All-Star program held each year, "picked people successful in their careers."
"There have been a lot of great players there over the years," Bonness adds. "It's cool to be picked."
Bonness was first chosen to perform in the annual program when he was 15 or 16 after supplying an audition tape to Montgomery, a trumpeter and educator who taught at the University of Manitoba summer jazz camp for a number of years.
And at 17, Bonness hit the road with Maynard Ferguson's Big Bop Nouveau big band.
He is now a busy musician and piano professor in the U of M's jazz studies program, so it seems the Telluride program's aim of helping young musicians enter the world of jazz as professional performers hit the mark.
Each of the seven band members has been asked to provide original music -- newly composed or newly arranged for the two trumpets, two saxophones, piano, bass and drums configuration -- for the group's club dates and mainstage festival performances, Bonness says.
"We rehearse on the day I arrive," he notes.
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Thomas (Fats) Waller was a colourful entertainer as well as a master stride pianist and composer who influenced the generation of pianists that followed him, including Count Basie, Teddy Wilson and Mary Lou Williams.
Some of Waller's best music, conjuring life in Harlem in the 1920s and '30s, will close out the Izzy Asper Jazz Performances series next Saturday in two concerts.
New York singers Catherine Russell and Allan Harris will perform popular Waller tunes such as Ain't Misbehavin' and Honeysuckle Rose under the direction of arranger and saxophonist Andy Farber, who presented a similar Waller show at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York in 2010.
They will be backed by Winnipeg musicians Steve Kirby on bass, Bonness, trumpeter Derrick Gardner, drummer Quincy Davis, saxophonist Jon Gordon and trombonist Brad Shigeta.
Farber has described Waller as appealing "to the connoisseur and the layperson with his mastery of the stride piano and pop music.
"As a composer, Waller is right up there with George Gershwin, Richard Rogers, and Cole Porter. Many of his tunes are standard repertoire today. Much like Gershwin's I Got Rhythm, countless songs have their harmonic structure based on Waller's Honeysuckle Rose or Ain't Misbehavin'," he says.
The Music of Fats Waller will be performed May 3 at 3:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Tickets are $38 ($20 for students) at 204-477-7534 and www.radyjzz.com.
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Icelandic guitarist and popular visitor to Winnipeg Bjorn Thoroddsen reprises his Guitarama concert on May 9 at the Park Theatre.
Last year's celebration of all styles of guitar playing was a hit, and Jazz Winnipeg decided to make it an annual event.
Joining Thoroddsen this year are local guitarists Barry G. Player, Tim Butler, Chet Breau, Marco Castillo and Mike Swickis, and bassist Gilles Fournier and drummer Eric Platz.
Tickets are $15 from Jazz Winnipeg, 204-989-4656, or $20 at the door.
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The Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra wraps up its season on May 11 with a celebration of the music of Harold Arlen featuring Winnipeg singer Colleen Furlan, a finalist on the CBC reality TV series Over the Rainbow in 2012.
Furlan made it to the final four in the quest for the lead role of Dorothy in Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage adaptation of The Wizard of Oz.
Furlan will sing selections from the Arlen repertoire and some of her personal favourites backed by the big band. The concert will also feature local singer Everett Fristensky.
The WJO performs May 11 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Tickets are $34 ($15 for students) at www.winnipegjazzorchestra.com.
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The 2014-15 Izzy Asper Performances boasts a strong lineup for the five-concert season that starts in the fall.
Creole Soul with the Etienne Charles Quintet opens the season Sept. 20 and 21 with the trumpeter's mix of calypso, blues, bebop and R&B.
Acclaimed vibraphonist Warren Wolf, last seen here in a band led by Christian McBride, performs Nov. 1 and 2 in a show highlighting Ellington and more.
Guitarist Russell Malone is joined by pianist Cyrus Chestnut on March 7 and 8 as he plays music from the repertoires of jazz guitar legends such as Charlie Christian, Charlie Byrd, Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery.
Violinist Regina Carter and her Southern Comfort Quintet take a journey to her father's Alabama roots with a mix of gospel, folk and jazz on April 8.
Singer Carmen Lundy leads a quartet May 2 and 3 to celebrate the 91st anniversary of the births of jazz greats Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington.
Asper series concerts are held Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., except Regina Carter, who performs two Saturday shows, at 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are available at radyjcc.com or 204-477-7534.