Guest jazz artist to host concert, master class


The Kent State University Jazz Ensemble, led by Director Robert Selvaggio, practices in the Kent Center for Performing Arts on Monday, March 30, 2015 as they prepare for their Friday concert with guest artist and jazz saxophonist Donny McCaslin.

Dara Sander

International guest musician Donny McCaslin will bring a jazz concert to Kent State on Friday, April 3 at 8 p.m. with the KSU Chamber Jazz Ensemble.

The first half of McCaslin’s concert at the Carl F.W. Ludwig Recital Hall in the Center for Performing Arts will be played with the KSU Chamber Jazz Ensemble and the KSU Jazz Combo along with the Bobby Selvaggio Quartet for second half of the concert.

He also will host a master class in the Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, April 3 from 2 to 4 p.m.

“I consider Donny to be one of the leading figures of what I have consider my generation today’s generation of Jazz musicians,” Director of Jazz Bobby Selvaggio said.

Selvaggio described McCaslin’s approach to music as being very modern, progressive and high energy.

His band now is “an electric group we play this hyper-Jazz and electronica music,” guest artist Donny McCaslin said in a phone interview.

When you hear original music by McCaslin, you’re hearing the culmination of all that history and all the fundamentals of the music into a very personalized style that Donny has come up with, Selvaggio said.

“He does a lot of touring (and) he does a lot of teaching in clinics like he’s coming here to do,” Selvaggio said. “He is just a great guy. I love the way he plays, and I love hanging out with him.”

Before the concert, McCaslin will host a master class for students as well, which Selvaggio said he believes is an important experience for the students.

“I talk about the ways about developing a melodic language or rhythmic vocabulary, ways to help you develop your all around skills as an improvising musician,” McCaslin said.

He will also illustrate examples of ways of practicing that worked for him and what didn’t work for him during the lecture.

“(Students) get really excited when (the guests artists) are here. They come up with questions and the interaction between the artist and the students is just a fabulous thing,” Selvaggio said. “They’re really excited to have the opportunity to perform with him, not just hang with him and learn from him, but to actually perform with him.”

McCaslin teaches at the New England conservatory in Boston and Manhattan School of Music in New York.

KSU Chamber Jazz Ensemble member Ryan Critchfield said he is very excited to have McCaslin come to Kent State.

It is Critchfield’s fifth year in the KSU Chamber Jazz Ensemble, and he is pursuing his master’s degree in bass performance.

“Having a guy like Donny McCaslin is huge for the program…I had the pleasure of watching him two years ago with Maria Schneider’s group in Chicago,” Critchfield said.

Critchfield said he is excited to see what McCaslin’s influence and teaching will have on the KSU Chamber Jazz Ensemble and the KSU Jazz Combo and sees it as any time someone of high caliber comes to Kent State, he feels the ensembles are able to take something away from it.

McCaslin is playing with the Bobby Selvaggio Quartet in which they will play some of his original music.

The first of those pieces is a song called “Madonnna,” named after the famed musician herself.

“Madonna is inspired by the singer, Madonna…I listening to the first track off her record, ‘Ray of Light,’ I thought it was really compelling. It had a strong hook in it and that inspired me to write ‘Madonna,’ “ McCaslin said in a phone interview.

The next piece in the set of his original music is called “Energy Generation,” which is inspired by R&B band Tower of Power.

The third piece of original music by McCaslin that will be played at the concert is called “Stadium Jazz.”

McCaslin said he hopes it will be a fun show and filled with music that the audience will be able to relate to and enjoy.

Contact Dara Sander at [email protected].