Jazz is big at Utah State, with hundreds of students participating every year in jazz activities of one kind or another, whether in one of the two big bands, several combos, numerous guitar ensembles, jazz improvisation and history classes, various chamber groups that include jazz in their repertoires, the Jazz Kicks Big band, the annual Jazz Night at the Sky Club, the jazz series at Why Sound, or the regular jazz jam sessions downtown. Students at USU have opportunities to conduct, write for, perform in, and record and tour with big bands and small groups.
In June of 2014, Downbeat Magazine honored the USU Jazz Orchestra with its Outstanding Performance by a Large Jazz Ensemble award in the annual Student Music Awards issue. This is due to a combination of great students who are excited to study and perform this music, and a world-class music faculty.
Our big bands, the Jazz Orchestra and the Jazz Ensemble, perform the finest of jazz repertoire, from classic to cutting edge, including Ellington, Basie, Thad Jones, Oliver Nelson, Bob Brookmeyer, Gerry Mulligan, Bob Mintzer, Slide Hampton, Fred Sturm, and many others, including student originals. The USU Jazz Orchestra's latest CD, Europa (2014), features music that was arranged and/or composed by European musicians, including works by Radiohead, and arrangements of works by American composers Tom Waits and Frank Zappa.
Jazz combos allow students to concentrate on further developing their improvisation skills; and again, the repertoire is from the best jazz artists (Monk, Parker, Ellington, Coltrane, Horace Silver, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, John Scofield, et al) as well as from the students themselves. Recently, the Caine Jazz Combo dug deep to perform Miles Davis' Kind of Blue album in its entirety live, for a packed house at Why Sound in downtown Logan.
Guest clinicians are a regular part of the jazz studies curriculum. Here is a partial list of guest artists from the past several years (since 2003):
Saxophonists: Bud Shank, Pete Christlieb, Dave Pietro, Chris Vadala, Norbert Stachel, Jack Wilkins, Lauren Sevian, Tom Walsh, Brent Jensen, Joe McQueen;
Trumpeters: Brian Lynch, Byron Stripling, Marvin Stamm, Graham Breedlove, Mark Buselli;
Trombonists: Slide Hampton, Conrad Herwig, Wycliffe Gordon, Chris Oberholtzer, Willie Applewhite;
Pianists: Bill Mays, Dana Landry, Bill Anschell, Melanie Shore;
Guitarists: John Scofield, Vic Juris, Mike Stern, Joe Diorio, Ron Eschete, Tommy Emmanuel, Martin Taylor;
Bassists: Rufus Reid, Lars Yorgason, Aaron Miller, Chris Symer, Erik Applegate;
Drummers: Ed Soph, John Riley, Danny Gottlieb, Beth Gottlieb, Jim White;
|2014 - 2015 USU Jazz Orchestra||2014 - 2015 USU Jazz Ensemble|
The Director of Jazz Studies at Utah State University is saxophonist Jon Gudmundson. Other jazz faculty include: guitarist Corey Christiansen, trombonist Todd Fallis, trumpeter Max Matzen, percussionist Jason Nicholson, pianist Kevin Olson, guitarist Nate Ostermiller, bassist Josh Skinner, vocalist Kate Skinner, pianist Larry Smith (emeritus), saxophonist Greg Wheeler. For more information about jazz at Utah State University, contact Jon Gudmundson at 435-797-3003 or contact Jon Gudmundson here.