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Smith Jazzers to Jam With the Pros

Smith’s student jazzers (and other Five College musicians) will have a chance to jam on stage with an acclaimed jazz saxophonist as participants in the first event in a program coordinated by Branford Marsalis.

Tenor saxophonist David Sánchez, a leading voice in Afro-Caribbean jazz whose recent album Travesía is his third recording to be nominated for a Grammy Award, will visit Smith on Wednesday and Thursday, February 26–27, with his renowned sextet. Sánchez will lead a performance workshop for students on February 26 at 3 p.m. in Sweeney Concert Hall in Sage Hall.

For students, however, the highlight of Sánchez’s visit may be a concert that evening at 8 p.m. in Sage Hall. After a first-half performance by Sánchez’s band, students—perhaps as many as a dozen—will be invited on stage to play alongside the professionals.

On February 27, at 4 p.m., Sánchez and his group will wrap up their visit with a panel conversation in Sage Hall’s Earle Recital Hall, to be followed by a reception in the Green Room.

Sánchez’s visit is the inaugural event of Marsalis Jams, a program initiated by jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis, through his new Marsalis Music record label, that combines music and education by bringing world-class musicians to the nation’s colleges to perform and to give musical guidance to students.

The program aims to promote opportunities for college student musicians to learn from established professionals while offering featured musicians chances to present their music to new audiences on college campuses, in contrast to the typical urban nightclub or concert settings.

“ Marsalis Jams gives students a chance to rub shoulders with high-profile musicians, while also stimulating their interest,” says Steve Waksman, assistant professor of music at Smith who helped coordinate the event. Waksman will be the moderator of the Sánchez sextet’s panel on February 27. “There’s a lot of promise in this program and we’re in a good position to take advantage of it.”

Sánchez, who was born in Puerto Rico, quickly became recognized in the New York jazz scene in the late 1980s, performing with pianist Eddie Palmieri and Paquito D’Rivera. In 1991, Sánchez was invited by Dizzy Gillespie to join his United Nations Orchestra.

Sánchez earned critical acclaim with his debut album, The Departure, in 1995 and successive recordings Sketches of Dreams and Street Scenes. His album Travesía, features the same sextet that recorded his Grammy-nominated Melaza last year, and will join Sánchez at Smith.

Waksman plans to pursue more musical performances by musicians such as Sánchez, he says, who represent new genres, perhaps hosting similar visits annually. “We have an up-and-coming jazz ensemble here with a growing number of players,” says Waksman of Smith’s 30-student group, which is directed by Bruce Diehl. “The music department is interested in getting some kinds of music here outside the traditional genres.”

The Marsalis Jams event is sponsored by the music, Latin American studies and American studies departments, the offices of the provost/dean of the college and the president, and by the Five College Music Chairs.

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