BALDWIN CITY, KANSAS — The Baker University Department of Music and Theater will kick off its 18th Annual Jazz Festival with a concert hosted by the Baker Jazz Ensemble at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19, in Rice Auditorium. Directed by Dr. J.D. Parr, the concert will feature world-renowned jazz clarinetist Ken Peplowski and a combo of Kansas City–area professional jazz musicians. The largest and most prestigious jazz program to be presented at Baker in more than 30 years, the festival is free and open to the public.
Peplowski will work with Baker musicians for two days leading into the concert. He will be accompanied by the Baker Jazz Ensemble, as well as performing an intimate combo set with Kansas City jazz legends Rod Fleeman on guitar, John Kizilarmut on drums and Gerald Spaits on bass. Peplowski will also play tenor saxophone during the concert.
Called “arguably the greatest living jazz clarinetist” by the BBC in 2013, Peplowski has recorded approximately 50 CDs as a soloist and nearly 400 as a sideman since 1984. In constant demand in venues throughout the world, he was the guest of honor in March at a Highlights in Jazz concert in New York saluting him for “his matchless musical achievements.” He has headlined the Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, the Blue Note, and Dizzy’s Club among many other venues. In December 2012, Will Friedwald of The Wall Street Journal wrote, “Mr. Peplowski sounds the way Benny Goodman might if he had kept evolving, kept on listening to new music, kept refining his sound, polishing his craft, and expanding his musical purview into the 21st century.”
On Friday, Nov. 20, the Jazz Festival continues with competitive performances by 20 area high school jazz bands from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Rice Auditorium. The bands will be rated and critiqued by Peplowski and the Kansas City musicians. Award citations will be given to outstanding student soloists throughout the day and two scholarships will be presented to the exemplary individual performers. Approximately 400 students will participate.