UNO Jazz studies program offers valuable classes taught by jazz legends
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The University of New Orleans’ jazz program is often regarded as world-class, keeping the music birthed in the city alive and well, partly by inviting jazz musicians to visit and present masterclasses, hold open rehearsals, or perform with students at on-campus events like “Jazz at the Sandbar.”
Guest artists who come to UNO are regarded as some of the biggest names on the local and national jazz scenes.
On Jan. 19, the legendary New Orleans-based modern-jazz group Astral Project hosted an open rehearsal on campus with Grammy-Award-winning drummer Brian Blade, who sat in for the group’s regular drummer, Johnny Vidacovich.
Blade, a former student of Vidacovich, moved to New Orleans from his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana in 1988 to attend Loyola University. After moving to New Orleans, he started playing with local musicians.
Since his college days, Blade has gone on to play with legendary jazz and folk musicians, including Chick Corea, Joni Mitchell, Wayne Shorter, Bob Dylan, Steve Masakowski, Herbie Hancock and Norah Jones. He also leads his own ensemble, The Fellowship Band.
Senior music major Mikal Salahuddin said, “Blade is just an all around amazing player. He’s known for being an extremely good jazz musician in the realest sense. Which means that yes, of course he’s good at his scales and the technicalities of his instrument, but he’s even better at improvising and elevating the improvised piece to a new level.”
Pianist and synthesizer guru Jason Linder taught a masterclass covering sound design and sound physics on Jan. 24. Linder went over concepts such as sound waves and how to create different synthesizer sounds by manipulating the shape of a sound wave.
“I heard from those in attendance at that class it would super intricate and interesting, especially practical is the student was interested in electronic music,” Salahuddin said.
Linder also spoke briefly about how a group that he plays in, the Donny McCaslin quartet, caught the ear of contemporary music icon David Bowie at 55 Bar in New York City. Linder, along with McCaslin’s quartet, would later record with Bowie on his last record before his death, “Blackstar.”
Preeminent pianist Marcus Roberts will visit campus on Jan. 26 to
perform and conduct a clinic with student musicians. “Roberts is another artist who
possesses the gift of a self-exclusive style of playing that is achieved by only a small
minority of musicians.”
Along with numerous critically-acclaimed albums to his name, Roberts has won many awards. He was also featured on a segment of CBS’s “60 Minutes” entitled “The Virtuoso: Marcus Roberts.”
Roberts has deep ties to New Orleans musicians that go back to the beginning of his career. He has toured and recorded many albums with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, who said that Roberts is “the greatest American musician most people have never heard of.” Roberts also works with Marsalis’ younger brother, Jason Marsalis, who plays the drums in his trio.
To view clinics and masterclasses from past years, visit the UNO jazz studies program’s video archive at: