April is a big month for William Paterson’s jazz program. On April 9, the WPU Jazz Orchestra celebrated the 100th birthday of Thad Jones, which was March 28. (See “Celebrating Thad Jones’ Centennial”, Jersey Jazz, March 2023). On April 20, the WPU Legacy Award Gala is honoring former jazz Program Director Rufus Reid and the late Dr. Martin Krivin, who founded the jazz program (“Celebrating 50 Years of Groundbreaking Education”, Jersey Jazz, April 2023). And, on April 23, the WPU Jazz Room concert will commemorate the jazz program’s 50th anniversary.
The April 9th concert featured two guest performers – baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan and tenor saxophonist Rich Perry, who was a student when Thad Jones was directing the jazz program. Perry is currently on the WPU faculty and has been a member of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (formerly the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra) since the late 1970s. Among the Thad Jones compositions and arrangements played by the WPU Jazz Orchestra and Chamber Jazz Ensemble were “Lady Luck”, “Kids Are Pretty People” and “All of Me”. (Photo above: Dr. David Demsey conducting the WPU Jazz Orchestra).
Many William Paterson alumni were quoted in the Jersey Jazz April article, but trumpeter Freddie Hendrix reached us after deadline with this comment: “William Paterson University was a sacred temple of learning, extremely heartfelt mentorship amongst the jazz luminaries that taught there, and a brotherhood between peers alike. It provided me with almost all of the knowledge necessary to survive in this world of music. It shaped me to do the things that I could not do on my own. And, it was a major stepping stone in leading me into my career.” Hendrix was featured on the cover of the April Jersey Jazz with alto saxophonist Bruce Williams at the WPU February Jazz Room concert. (Photo below is of Hendrix with Demsey at that concert).
The Jazz Room finale on April 23rd will feature performances by Rufus Reid, current Director of Jazz Studies Bill Charlap, and special alumni guests.
PHOTO OF WPU JAZZ ORCHESTRA BY FRED H. POLITINSKY