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April 15, 2014 > Supermurgitroid! Jazz Festival brings the groove back

Supermurgitroid! Jazz Festival brings the groove back

By Robbie Finley

The smooth, sultry sounds of the saxophone. The driving beats of the drums. The massive, dominating sounds of trombones and trumpets. All of these blend together in the sophisticated, melodic sounds of jazz. One of Americas oldest musical styles will once again be celebrated as California State University East Bay (CSUEB) sets the stage for the 29th annual CSUEB Jazz Festival grooving the Hayward-based campus on April 18 and 19.

The two-day festival, which brings out the best of the best in jazz as well as the top local talent of the East Bay, kicks off with a special performance by superstar trombonist Wycliffe Gordon at the universitys theater. Gordon will wail alongside the schools jazz ensemble starting at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday will see the festival shift toward an educational focus as almost 200 high school and junior college jazz bands take to the stage and perform in 45-minute interactive sets evaluated by expert adjudicators. Gordon will perform again alongside CSUEB faculty, including Dr. Dorsey Mitch Butler, the schools director of jazz studies and a seasoned trombonist in his own right. Unique interactive clinics, open to the public, provide vital feedback for the visiting young jazz musicians to hone their craft and learn from todays leading jazz musicians.

ÒThe Bay Area is definitively one of the great bastions of jazz,Ó Dr. Butler said. The size of the region is advantageous, he said, as it has allowed fostering of a number of great local musicians in a wide geographical area.

For almost three decades, the festivalÕs goal for both jazz newcomers and enthusiasts has been to introduce them to the featured artist and visiting ensembles, promote the school and jazz education, and provide an opportunity for intensive mentoring. ÒFor me, the way I came up was to learn about all genres, to have the knowledge and to develop from there,Ó Dr. Butler said, adding, ÒThe only way to play is to study the craft.Ó

CSUEB first gave jazz a platform in 1986, when Professor Emeritus Dave Eshelman formulated a way for the university to connect with local schools, as well as increase the departmentÕs visibility, according to Justin Plank, the schoolÕs music resource center coordinator. A huge draw of talent over the years, the festival has seen the likes of jazz clarinet player Eddie Daniels, saxophonist Seamus Blake, and the Tim Armacost Quartet grace the stage. ÒWe want to eventually make it unique,Ó Dr. Butler said about the festivalÕs structure and mission. One of his goals is to incorporate more local community involvement in the thus-far solely campus-based event.

What endures about jazz, one of AmericaÕs oldest musical genres? In todayÕs musical landscape of Katy Perry, Lorde, and Pharrell Williams, ÒJazz is an oasis from that,Ó Dr. Butler explained. It still has a place in music. ItÕs danceable and has conformed and evolved alongside American culture, reaffirming time after time, its relevance and confirming its endurance. ÒIt has a quality that gives a respite from popular music today,Ó he said.

Tickets are available now for Wycliffe GordonÕs Friday performance. For more information, visit

CSUEB Jazz Festival
Friday, Apr 18 & Saturday, Apr 19
7:30 p.m. Ð 9:30 p.m.
University Theatre at CSU East Bay
25800 Carlos Bee Blvd, Hayward
(510) 885-3167

Tickets: $10
Parking fee: $5

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