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Jazz festival to trumpet into Ohio State

Courtesy of Kris Johnson

Although a specific type of music will be the main focus for the Ohio State School of Music’s annual Jazz Festival, one performer says the music will be diverse.

“There are all the really talented OSU bands performing. Pretty much any type of listener would have a benefit (in attending) because there is so much diversity on the musical selection,” said Kris Johnson, OSU jazz faculty trumpeter and member of modern jazz band Kris Johnson Group. “There’s a group like my own doing new material and original music, then there’s Pharez Whitted performing on Saturday, playing straight-ahead jazz.”

The 36th annual OSU School of Music Jazz Festival is set to kick off Thursday and run through Sunday with performances at the Weigel Auditorium and the Wexner Center for the Arts Performance Space.

Johnson teaches jazz trumpet, jazz composition and jazz arrangement. His self-titled group, which features trumpet, alto sax, two piano players, electric bass, drums and percussion, is set to perform first at the Jazz Festival at 6 p.m. Thursday in Weigel Auditorium.

Johnson said most of the music his group plans on playing is from its most recent album, “Odd Expressions,” which released Nov. 25.

“We’re doing all original music,” Johnson said. “The majority of the music…(is) all groove-based, jazz-based music.”

The Kris Johnson Group is to be followed by several ensembles throughout the weekend, including the OSU Jazz Ensemble featuring Shawn “Thunder” Wallace and headliner Pharez Whitted Sextet. College and high school jazz ensembles are also scheduled to perform in the festival.

College Jazz Band Day is set to take place on Saturday, and the Ohio State Jazz Lab Ensemble, Jazz Workshop and Jazz Combos are scheduled to perform along with a few visiting college ensembles. High School Jazz Band Day is planned for Sunday and is set to host 15 to 20 high school bands from in and outside of Ohio.

Wallace, associate professor of music, said planning the Jazz Festival was difficult this year with the semester conversion but that it opened up new opportunities.

“Imagine having to redesign every class that you teach, restructure things, change everything,” Wallace said. “Change is a good thing, so we took this as an opportunity to improve some things (like booking more bands) … A part (of the festival) is booking the bands, and of course we can’t do that last-minute, that had to be something planned for and budgeted for.”

Wallace said he knew from a young age that he wanted to be a jazz performer.

“I started on the alto saxophone, and my dad was a musician, so I heard him playing the sax around the house,” Wallace said. “I kept begging my dad to teach me until I was about 6 years old, which is when I started. I just knew that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a world-class musician, so I did all the practicing and all the things (someone) would expect from somebody that wants to be a world-class musician.”

Whitted and his band, Pharez Whitted Sextet, is set to perform Saturday at 8 p.m. in Weigel Auditorium.

He said OSU is part of the appeal that brought them back to Columbus, as well as being a part of OSU again.

“It’s Ohio State University,” Whitted said. “I used to work there back in the 1990s. It’s a wonderful school with a wonderful program, and you have great faculty there and wonderful students. It’s a Big Ten university with how much money and prestige associated with it, and it has a lot of the Best Damn Bands in the Land. I love Columbus, Ohio.”

No tickets are required for the College Jazz Band Day or High School Jazz Band Day. Ticket prices vary for all other events, but all tickets are available at the Wexner Center Ticket Office or at the door.

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