Rockford Jazz Society–Spotlight: Sax Virtuoso Mark Colby

Rockford Jazz Society–Spotlight: Sax Virtuoso Mark Colby

By Matt P. Spinello

By Matt P. Spinello

From Stan Getz: “I have been listening to Mark Colby for 20 years, and I’ve seen him grow into a master of the saxophone and a master of the music he plays.” The statement has been seconded by countless others over the years, including writer John Wilson of the New York Times, who commented: “A brilliant saxophone soloist in the virtuoso range.” Area followers who have witnessed Mark’s genius in Chicago and on the local scene at venues like Mary’s Market: The Bistro, Rockford’s On The Waterfront Jazz Stage and at Rock Valley College in concert, have long echoed in unison their own superlatives of the man: “unbelievable,” “inventive,” “brilliant,” all amplified and confirmed by his energy and passion for the art of jazz.

Mark has performed with Frank Sinatra, Gerry Mulligan, Maynard Ferguson, Jaco Pastorius, Bob James, Charlie Haden and Mose Allison. He is a first call studio musician and has been heard on over 2,000 commercials in the competitive Chicago market. He has been a jazz faculty member at DePaul University since 1983, as well as Elmhurst College. He currently performs as guest soloist and clinician/adjudicator at high schools and colleges throughout the United States representing the Selmer Company. He has also appeared at several jazz festivals throughout the country. His partial discography as a featured soloist include two albums for Columbia and one with Hallway Records; two additional albums with master keyboardist Frank Caruso, three Columbia recordings with Maynard Ferguson, and additional sides with Bob James, Ramsey Lewis, Brian Culbertson, Rob Parton’s Jazz Tech Big Band and the Mighty Blue Kings.

The 16 members of the Rock Valley Jazz Ensemble, comprised of Rock Valley College students, plus the 20-person Rock Valley Community Jazz Ensemble, organized with members of the community, the college and area high school students, will each be featured behind saxophonist jazz giant, Colby. Under the direction of Ken Stein, area jazz saxophonist, band leader and music faculty of Rock Valley College, both jazz ensembles have appeared in concert with Mark Colby, Vince Maggio, Clark Terry, Frank Mantooth, Rob Parton, Arnie Lawrence and several others.

Following this Rockford Jazz Society event on Sunday, April 14, both ensembles will present a final concert of the year with the Rock Valley Chamber Singers, under the direction of Dean Hurst, May 5th, 2 p.m., Sinnissippi Park Bandshell, Rockford, Illinois.

And circle the Thursdays of your calendars for weekly “live” jazz performances at Mary’s Market: The Bistro, also under the direction of Ken Stein, with area jazz musicians like Al Feeney, Trish Ramsten, Cary Sheley, Jack Brand, Guy Fiorenza and other alternating guest artists.

Happenings—Where ‘n When

Harlan Jefferson – The saxophonist supreme makes the rounds beginning Friday, April 12 at Trattoria Fantini, 7-11 p.m.; Saturday, April 27, Mary’s Market: The Bistro, 7:30-11:p.m.; May 11, Mary’s Market: The Bistro, 7:30-11:30 p.m.; Every Tuesday, Giovanni’s Big Al’s Bar, 6:30-10:30 p.m. Harlan also adds his phenomenal artistic musical touch to the show Ain’t Misbehavin’, New American Theater, May 14 & 15; 17 thru 19; 21 thru 26; & 29 thru 31.

West End Jazz Band – Bix Lives! Again! Be a part of jazz history at the site where legendary cornetist Bix Belderbecke played in the summer of 1926. Join Mike Bezin’s band bunch as they trek over the rails by special chartered train car to the Whistle Stop, formerly the historic Hudson Lake Casino (Blue Lantern), in Hudson Lake, Ind. Accompany the band over the same route Chicago musicians took when they assembled to hear Bix. The event on Sunday, May 5, will begin as the train leaves the Randolph Street Station of the South Shore Electric Line at 10 a.m. Parking is available at the Grant Park Garage. Cost per person round trip is $15, plus $5 admission at the concert door. If you plan to drive, complete information and directions will be available at the RJS Colby concert, April 14. This band also brings their jovial “happy music” to The Milk Pail in Elgin, Ill., every 2nd and 4th Sunday. The Pail is located 1/2 mile north of I-90 on Route 25. Stuff yourselves with their fine all-you-can-eat brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. while stomping your foot to the West End Jazz Band. Cost is $16.95 per person. For information, call (847) 742-5040.

Diane Lewis, Al Feeney, Guy Fiorenza & Jack Brand return by popular demand in an encore performance, through the courtesy of Café Patou, 3929 Broadway, Rockford, April 27 at 8 p.m. Your timely arrival is recommended ahead of one local attorney and a curly-headed drummer, who will otherwise command the first 14 rows with fans from their unofficial, self-proclaimed Diane Lewis Fan Club!

Dan Voll continues to circle the area with his various musical settings as a single, a duo and with his volcanically charged Combo Loco organization. Catch him Friday, April 19 at Café Patou, 8-12 p.m.; Saturday, April 20, Giovanni’s Big Al;s Bar, 8:30-12 p.m.; Friday, April 26, Trattoria Fantini, 7:30-11:30 p.m.; Friday, May 3, Cafe Patou, 3-12 p.m.; May 4, The Barn, 10-11:30 p.m.; May 24, Trattoria Fantini, 7:30-11:30 p.m.

Matt Spinello is president of the Rockford Jazz Society.

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