by Tyler Price '19
A yearly tradition of jazz and community returns to Knox College next month. As part of the 2018 Jerome Mirza Jazz Residency, Knox will host The Steven Bernstein Quartet on November 8 at 7 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre. The concert is free and open to the public.
During the weeklong Mirza Jazz Residency, Knox students are offered the chance to collaborate and learn alongside visiting artists to hone their craft.
This year’s guests have created a spot for themselves among the last 20 years of jazz performers in the New York area by creating their own spin on pop classics. The group, consisting of Steven Bernstein (front man, slide trumpet), Briggan Krauss (saxophones), Tony Scherr (bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums), has carved a niche for itself as a band that covers songs while holding an explicit disdain for the idea of being a “cover band.”
Listeners can expect to hear deconstructed versions of well-known tunes like "Fernando" by ABBA or Paul McCartney’s "Live and Let Die." In Bernstein’s words “I realize that's what jazz musicians have always done. That’s how Lester Young and Charlie Parker and Miles Davis got popular. They played the songs that everyone knew. And because they could recognize the song then that invited them into their style."
The fact that Bernstein exclusively plays slide trumpet gives the quartet an even more distinctive edge. As he puts it, “When you play the trumpet, Louis Armstrong is the king. But when I play the slide trumpet, I’m the king. It’s my voice. On trumpet, there’s no escaping Armstrong and Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Lester Bowie…all those cats. But on slide trumpet, it’s just me.”
Knox Director of Jazz Studies Nikki Malley said she’s looking forward to having the artists on campus. "I was lucky enough to work with Steven Bernstein in his role as guiding artist at New York’s Creative Music Studio in 2016, and I was blown away by his masterful ability to get the best of out every participating musician regardless of their background or experience,” said Malley, associate professor and chair of music. “But most of all, I was amazed at Steven’s ability to make every single moment fun and open for creativity.”
The Jerome Mirza Jazz Residency is part of the bigger tradition of The Knox Jazz Year, a series of performances and workshops encompassing all three academic terms and culminating with the Knox-Rootabaga Jazz Festival during spring term. The goal of The Jazz Year is to offer students and community members a chance to gain a deeper knowledge and appreciation of the craft and spirit of jazz. Past Mirza Jazz Residency headliners have included the Donny McCaslin Casting for Gravity Quartet, the Marquis Hill Blacktet, and Grammy-winner Maria Schneider.
About the Jerome Mirza Jazz Residency
The Jerome Mirza Jazz Residency at Knox College is made possible through support from the Jerome Mirza Foundation of Bloomington, Illinois. The residency program is designed to benefit Knox students, jazz practitioners, and audiences of jazz lovers from the Galesburg and surrounding communities by bringing world-renowned jazz artists to campus for a week of intensive and collaborative jazz activities with Knox College students, culminating in a free public concert.