Mike Tracy
Mike Tracy

The UofL School of Music’s 26th annual Jazz Fest, is Feb. 22-24. As usual, it will bring jazz music’s most celebrated names to Louisville for concerts, workshops, master classes and comradery. 

The festival kicks off at 8 p.m. Feb. 22 with a highly renowned group of performers: Bruno Pegoraro on saxophone, Rob Parton on trumpet, Phil DeGreg on piano and Natalie Boeyink on bass. Acclaimed drummer Adam Nussbaum will play with jazz faculty at 8 p.m. Feb. 23.

Bill Evans
Bill Evans

Acclaimed saxophone player Bill Evans will round out the festival with a performance at 8 p.m. Feb. 24 along with the UofL Symphony Orchestra. Evans was a member of the Miles Davis group in the 1980s and the fusion band Elements. He has recorded 17 solo albums and received two Grammy Award nominations.   

UofL’s Jazz Fest celebrates America’s indigenous music and is part of the university’s observance of Black History Month.

Jazz Fest was founded by UofL’s own jazz great, Mike Tracy, professor and director of the School of Music’s jazz studies program. Tracy is considered one of America’s foremost jazz educators, with more than 40 years of experience performing and teaching jazz in nearly 50 countries. 

Tracy put his sax down long enough to tell UofL News what’s so exciting about Jazz Fest 2018.

UofL News: How did you pick the guest artists appearing this year?

Tracy: Our goal is to select master jazz performers who are also accomplished educators because all will interact with our students and all those visiting. We consider who we have had in the past and the instruments they played because we want to present a balanced event, the long view. The faculty and I personally know a great many artists and we reach out to see who is available. Bill Evans (saxophone) and Adam Nussbaum (drum set) are incredible musicians who have played with everyone in and out of the jazz field, from Miles Davis to Gregg Allman and Michael Brecker to Toots Thielemans. I have known them since we were all just starting our careers. They are highly personable and committed to working with others. They also fit nicely into our long history of artists. Everyone will enjoy working with them.

UofL News: What makes this year’s lineup exciting?

Tracy: Bill and Adam are exciting, energetic performers. We will be placing both in a variety of settings, ones they don’t normally face. The range of material that will be performed is also quite diverse. Adam, best known for working in trios to quintets, will be performing with Jazz Ensemble I directed by Ansyn Banks and with our jazz faculty. Gabe Evens, our newest jazz faculty person, has written new compositions and arrangements for jazz saxophone and orchestra. Bill will be performing these pieces with UofL’s Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Kimchere Lloyd. UofL jazz faculty will also be playing. We always strive to present interesting material and I think this year will be a special one.

UofL News: This is the 26th annual Jazz Fest. What keeps audiences coming back, year after year?

Tracy: I trust that our audience recognizes that we are committed to excellence, knowing that the guest artists, adjudicators and all performing groups will be of world-class quality. Also, that there are likely to be concerts that they could not find anywhere else in the region. Over the 26 years we have established a fantastic record by presenting master jazz musicians like Dave Brubeck, Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, Paquito D’Rivera, Winton Marsalis, Chick Corea, Marian McPartland, Lionel Loueke and many more. No one can match what we have done. 

UofL News: Masterclasses and workshops are included in Jazz Fest, so obviously Jazz musicians can get a lot out of it. But what about newbies? 

Tracy: Jazz Fest is primarily about music education focused on jazz. The evening concerts are of course wonderful but what makes the event special for me is seeing and hearing the visiting middle and high school, college and university ensembles perform. It is great watching the students interact with each other, the adjudicators (who are also fantastic performers and educators) and the visiting guest artists. One does not have to be jazz knowledgeable to appreciate the depth of learning and communicating that occurs. The scope of music is vast and I am confident even the jazz novice will enjoy what they hear.

UofL News: Do you think Jazz Fest has had an impact on the local jazz scene? How so?

Tracy: Jazz Fest (previously known as Jazz Week) has had a major impact on the local jazz scene and throughout the region. Bands and musicians annually visit and then return home having experienced wonderful performances and insightful educational classes. Local venues may occasionally present master jazz musicians but certainly not on a regular basis, with limited, if any, educational outreach. We are committed to bringing in master jazz performers and educators to Louisville throughout the year with Jazz Fest being the highlight. There is likely at least one free jazz concert every week of the school year – more than 35 in this year alone. The Jamey Aebersold Jazz Studies Program can be counted on to offer the finest jazz experience possible.    

UofL News: Anything else you’d like us to know?

Tracy: Attend a concert or visit a master class. Jazz is about communicating personal experiences through music. You don’ have to play an instrument to be involved. Tell us about that experience, what you liked, what you would like us to do. We will listen. Hope to see you at Jazz Fest but also anytime throughout the year. 

About Jazz Fest

Jazz Fest concerts are in Comstock Concert Hall, School of Music, 2301 S. Third St. Performances are $20 for general admission and student tickets are $5 with a valid student ID, unless otherwise noted. Tickets can be purchased in the School of Music lobby. For more information or a full schedule of events, go online

Save the Date

Mark your calendars for our newest jazz event: Jazz-4-Sight with trumpet legend Doc Severinsen at 8 p.m. April 7 at the School of Music. This is a concert presented by UofL’s Department of Ophthalmology and Jazz Studies with all proceeds going to benefit the Kentucky Lions Eye Center and the jazz students. Best known for his work with Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show, Doc is 90 years old and still playing great. You don’t want to miss this concert, and help support folks with vision challenges.

Niki King
Niki King Jones is positive she has the best job at the University of Louisville, serving the communication needs of the departments of fine arts and theatre, the School of Music, University Libraries and Alumni – all the fun, creative stuff. Before coming to UofL in 2015, Niki held communication positions in both private and nonprofit sectors in Louisville, Ky., including at Heaven Hill Distilleries and the Jewish Community of Louisville. For 10 years prior, she was a reporter at various newspapers across the country, most recently The Courier-Journal. Niki graduated from the University of Memphis with a BA in journalism and has a masters degree in community and leadership development from the University of Kentucky.