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Jazz MVPs

Jazz is often regarded as the first great American-born art form. Notably, its origins and success are deeply embedded in African-American cultural history. That legacy will be evident at an ArtsLIVE concert by the MVP Jazz Quartet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, in the Jesse Philips Humanities Center's Sears Recital Hall on the University of Dayton campus.

The MVP Jazz Quartet is an all-star ensemble specially assembled to pay tribute to late, great jazz composers and pianists James Williams (1951-2004) and Mulgrew Miller (1955-2013). Although these two African-American musicians died early, they had a great impact on jazz in the second half of the 20th century. Meeting first at Memphis State University in the 1970s, both played with drummer Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and each became an admired teacher in the Jazz Studies program at William Paterson University in New Jersey.

Members of the MVP Jazz Quartet both knew and were influenced by Williams and Miller. The Quartet includes Donald Brown (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), Marvin “Smitty” Smith (drums) and Bobby Watson (saxophone).

The concert is preceded by an optional pre-concert conversation led by Dave Barber at 6:45 p.m. Barber is well known for his Tuesday Night Jazz program on public radio station WYSO-FM (91.3). He’ll chat with the musicians about Williams and Miller’s legacy.

In addition to the concert, the MVP Jazz Quartet will spend several days in residence on campus, working with jazz studies students from both the University and Stivers School for the Arts in Dayton. These programs are made possible by support from the Cityfolk Jazznet Legacy Endowment.

- Eileen Carr, ArtsLIVE coordinator

Images, top of page, L to R: James Williams and Mulgrew Miller.

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