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jazz

Maria Jarzyna

Driving up from his former hometown of Columbus, OH (he now lives in Brooklyn), the top-flight jazz pianist Aaron Diehl will present a livestreamed concert from the Epic Center in Kalamazoo at 7:30 Friday, Apr 9, with bassist John Webber and drummer Aaron Kimmel. In a conversation with Cara Lieurance, Diehl talks about his adjustment to a pandemic year which hit just has his latest album, The Vagabond, was released. It's given him time to reflect on life's priorities. Tonight's concert for The Gilmore was rescheduled from a planned appearance at the 2020 Gilmore Keyboard Festival. To access the concert online, visit thegilmore.org. 


Centaur Records

The new release Impressions of Debussy brings together two current and one former faculty members of the Western Michigan University School of Music:  classical pianist Lori Sims, jazz saxophonist/composer Andrew Rathbun, and jazz pianist/composer Jeremy Siskind. 


Sehvilla Mann | WMUK / photo of Emmet Cohen by Taili Song Roth

Pierre Van Der Westhuizen, executive director of the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, joins Cara Lieurance to open the 2020 festival brochure and discuss the various artists, styles, venues and extra-musical experiences the festival will offer between April 22 - May 10. Van Der Westhuizen created different categories with multiple events for 2020, including "A Celebration of Beethoven," "Blissfully Baroque," "Keyboard Deep Dive," and "Jazz." The festival will be held in venues in Kalamazoo and surrounding communities from April 22 - May 10. 

One of the pianists singled out in the discussion is Sergei Babayan, whose career as a teacher has kept him under the radar as a soloist. He's one of the few pianists whose Chopin playing can bring Van Der Westhuizen to tears, he says. The festival will also celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth with a number of concerts, including 2018 Gilmore Artist Igor Levit playing an all-Beethoven program.

A tireless soloist and side man, Randy Johnston  has released 12 albums as a leader and has appeared on dozens of recordings with a wide variety of jazz recording artists. Keith Hall talks to the prolific guitarist in a live session in WMUK's Takeda Studio, where Johnston brings to life stories about his performing life with the likes of Lionel Hampton, Houston Person,  Etta Jones, Lonnie Smith, and Lou Donaldson.  

Randy Johnston and Keith Hall start their conversation by remembering Johnston's early days in Detroit, where he lived until he was 13. Music was everywhere, he says - he loved Motown artists and rock bands like MC5  and the Bob Seger System - but it was the Beatles phenomenon that made him want to play guitar. When his family returned to their southern roots in Richmond, VA, Johnston says he channeled some of the frustration at being a new student at a new school into hours of guitar practice. By his late teens, Johnston was playing in a popular band that advertised itself as suitable for "dances and pool parties." 

Johnston's path to becoming an indispensible guitarist in jazz organ groups was not direct, he tells Hall, but he learned a lot from the bandleaders who did hire him early on. Later, he played for 18 years with the Lou Donaldson Quartet. Johnston has devoted the last several years to producing solo albums. The latest is 2019's Cherry Juice.


Katherine Lane

Jazz pianist and composer Nicholas Olynciw (OH-lin-shoo) recently completed his master's degree in jazz performance at Western Michigan University, where he studied with Matthew FriesJazz Currents host Keith Hall visits with Olynciw in the Takeda studio at WMUK, where they talked about his Long Island, Texas, and Michigan connections, and Olynciw plays several new solo works:  "New Blues," "Associated," "Thermos," "Re-Pete," and "Dream Dancing."


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