When: Tue., Feb. 23, 8 p.m. 2016
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 17–SATURDAY, FEB. 20 CAROLINA JAZZ FESTIVAL
When you think of contemporary jazz in the Triangle, the first things that come to mind might be the long-swinging N.C. Central jazz program, Durham's audacious new Art of Cool Festival, or perhaps young clubs specializing in the stuff, like The Shed or Beyù Caffè. But jazz remains a vital presence at UNC-Chapel Hill, too, which the thirty-ninth Carolina Jazz Festival hopes to showcase late this week. Between Wednesday, Feb. 17, and Saturday, Feb. 20, various UNC jazz ensembles—the jazz band, several jazz combos, the faculty jazz ensemble, Charanga Carolina—will workshop, rehearse, and perform with guests Mark Whitfield (guitar) and Nat Reeves (bass). Almost all of those segments are free. The festival also incorporates a regional arm of the Essentially Ellington festival, which features a cadre of high school students performing various Ellington charts.
In case that doesn't sate your big-band desires, Carolina Jazz Festival concludes Saturday night with a pricey performance by the Count Basie Orchestra, still trucking nearly thirty two years after its namesake's death. Such so-called ghost bands are essentially cover acts for mid-century jazz greats; Basie, Ellington, Mingus, and Glenn Miller all survive now in a kind of liminal zombie state, their tunes played and replayed by constantly shifting groups. For this performance, the Basie band revisits one of its early undead triumphs, a 1987 Grammy-winning live album with vocalist Diane Schuur. That recording was all polish and sheen, a mix of hard-swinging blues and show-tune standards with tight arrangements. Schuur's voice was full and rich, transcending the stereotypical Ella, Billie, and Sarah molds with idiosyncratic twists. It will be interesting to see how such chemistry holds up three decades later. Acts like this depend on it. —Dan Ruccia
VARIOUS VENUES, CHAPEL HILL Free–$94, www.music.unc.edu