Pitt Jazz Ensemble’s Annual Spring Concert April 19 to Feature International Guest Artists Jimmy Owens, Curtis Fuller

Issue Date: 
April 16, 2012

The Pitt Jazz Ensemble—a student ensemble comprising nearly 30 musicians—will hold its annual spring concert at 8 p.m. April 19 in the Assembly Room of the William Pitt Union.

Featured guest performers will include legendary trumpeter Jimmy Owens and renowned jazz trombonist Curtis Fuller, both of whom have been frequent guests at Pitt’s annual fall Jazz Seminar and Concert. Accompanying Owens and Fuller will be Pittsburgh-area musicians Tony Depaolis (bass), Greg Humphries (drums), Alton Merrell (piano), and Cecil Washington (Latin percussion.)

Concert tickets are $10 general admission and $5 for students and are available at the WPU box office or at the door the night of the concert. They can also be purchased from ensemble musicians. For more information, call 412-624-4187.

The Pitt Jazz Ensemble will perform under the direction of interim ensemble director Ralph Guzzi. The group has played at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and has toured the southern United States and Trinidad. Since 1990, the ensemble annually spends two weeks in residence in Jamaica, touring area schools and performing at community festivals.

Jazz trumpeter, composer, and educator Jimmy Owens began studying the horn at a young age under Donald Byrd; by the time he was 15, he was sitting in with trumpet legend Miles Davis and playing with the Newport Youth Band. Over the years, he performed with Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington, Hank Crawford, Count Basie, Herbie Mann, and many others. In the 1960s, he was a member of the New York Jazz Sextet.

His experience covers a wide range of international musical achievements, which include extensive work as a studio musician, soloist, bandleader, and composer of orchestral compositions and film scores.

Owens received a master’s degree in education from the University of Massachusetts. He is an active member of the jazz education community and sits on the board of the Jazz Foundation of America. In 1990, he helped establish the Jazz Musicians’ Emergency Fund, which provides musicians in need with medical, financial, and housing assistance.

Curtis Fuller, who was born and raised in Detroit, picked up the trombone at age 16. Soon, he was playing in a U.S. Army Band led by Cannonball Adderly. When he returned from the service in 1955, he settled in New York City, where word about his unique style and sound spread quickly. A month later, in his early 20s, he recorded his first album as a leader. He performed with Miles Davis, Jimmy Smith, and Bud Powell, and then recorded the celebrated Blue Train album with jazz legend John Coltrane. After only eight months in New York City, Curtis had recorded six albums as a leader and was featured on 15 others. He was an original member of the Art Farmer-Benny Golson Jazztet, and his career included stints with Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Young, James Moody, and Quincy Jones. But it was with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers that Curtis would reach the pinnacle of his career, contributing A La Mode and several other classics to the band’s repertoire.

With his legacy as one of the most influential trombonists in jazz well established, Curtis spent the following years performing with jazz greats Count Basie and Jimmy Heath, among many others.