In its 52 years, the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival has been through a fair share of changes.
The festival was established at the University of Idaho in 1967 as the UI Jazz Festival, changing names to honor jazz vibraphonist Lionel Hampton in 1985.
Since its inception, the festival has been a place for both aspiring and established jazz musicians and singers.
During the day, the University of Idaho campus overflows with talented young musicians, from elementary school through college, participating in solo and ensemble vocal and instrumental categories.
“It’s a chance to get some really great feedback from some really high level adjudicators and clinicians and spur them on for the rest of the season because we definitely aren’t the only jazz festival around,” Vern Sielert, artistic director of the festival, trumpet professor and director of jazz studies, said.
In the evening, the university’s Kibbie Dome is host to some of the jazz scene’s biggest players. This year, for example, the festival features a performance from the New Lionel Hampton Big Band featuring singer Antonia Bennett (a daughter of Tony Bennett) and vibraphonist Joseph Doubleday.
But more recently, in 2006, the festival underwent a fairly significant change when then-artistic director John Clayton decided to do away with the competition aspect of the festival.
It wasn’t until control of the festival was put back into the hands of the university’s Lionel Hampton School of Music that the competition was reinstated.
Sielert said band and choir directors and audience members shared that they missed the competition as well as the opportunity to see students who won solo competitions perform on the main stage.
“Part of our thought process was it had been that type of festival for so long, to take away that part where the students actually got some spotlight time on the big stage, we wanted to bring that aspect back,” he said.
Subsequently, festival staff saw an uptick in participation from school groups, many of whom chose not to participate when the festival wasn’t competitive.
This year’s festival, Friday and Saturday at the University of Idaho, will bring approximately 4,000 students, from across the Northwest and as far away as Minnesota and Canada, to campus
When they’re not competing, students will have the opportunity to attend workshops taught by university faculty and staff as well as jazz musicians and educators.
Workshops include “Protecting the Music: Jazz and International Relations” with Bill Smith, “Electrify Your Instrument” with Steve Treseler and “Building Jazz Piano Voicings from the Ground Up” with Kate Skinner.
The festival also features a variety of dance workshops, including “Krump/Hip-Hop” with Krista Davis, “Swing Dance” with Swing Devils, “Latin Dance/Cha-Cha” with Bethany and Paul Hanes, and “African Dance” with Judy Drown.
On Friday night in the Kibbie Dome, the Lionel Hampton School of Music Jazz Choir I and Jazz Band I will be joined by trombonist Paul McKee and pianist/vocalist Dawn Clement.
McKee currently works as the associate professor of jazz trombone and arranging/composition at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
He is also an arranger and composer, and his pieces have been performed and recorded by both professional and academic jazz ensembles around the world.
Clement, a Pacific Northwest native, now calls Denver home, where she works as an assistant professor and the area coordinator of the jazz and American music department at Metropolitan State University.
Her latest album, “Tandem,” finds her pairing up with trombonist Julian Priester, singer and harmonium player Johnaye Kendrick, alto saxophonist Mark Taylor, drummer Matt Wilson and bassist Michael Glynn.
Festival solo/combo winners will perform, then Clement, drummer Matt Wilson and bassist Chuck Deardorf will perform as Dawn Clement’s Gratitude Trio.
Last year, the Jazz Journalists Association named Wilson musician of the year and awarded his “Honey and Salt: Music Inspired by the Poetry of Carl Sandburg” record of the year.
A Northwest staple, Deardorf has taught at Port Townsend’s Centrum Foundation since 1978 and the Cornish College of the Arts since 1979.
His latest album, “Perception,” features Clement and Wilson as well as saxophonist Hans Teuber, pianist Marc Seales, drummer Gary Hobbs and trumpeter Thomas Marriott.
On Saturday, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra will kick off the evening.
Since 1966, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, originally called the Thad Lewis/Mel Jones Orchestra, has been a staple at the Village Vanguard jazz club in New York City – a staple to the tune of more than 2,700 performances over the past 53 years.
The 16-piece jazz orchestra released “Over Time: The Music of Bob Brookmeyer” in 2014.
“It’s made up of (16) of the best jazz musician in New York, in the world for that matter,” Sielert said. “The band is awesome.”
The orchestra will be followed by performances from festival solo/combo winners. Then, to close the festival, the New Lionel Hampton Big Band, featuring Doubleday and Bennett, will take the stage.
“This year, they’re coming completely self-contained and they’re going to get to do a whole set of Lionel’s music,” Sielert said. “I think it’s huge for maintaining his legacy and exposing students to his music.”
Doubleday earned a bachelor’s degree from Berklee College of Music and was later the first vibraphonist to be accepted into the jazz studies program at the Juilliard School of Music.
Since graduating in 2015, Doubleday has toured with Chris Potter’s Underground Orchestra, performed as a featured soloist with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and performed at the Village Vanguard as a member of the Kenny Barron Quintet.
Bennett has performed with her father practically her entire life and often opens for him when he’s on tour.
As a headliner, Bennett has performed in jazz clubs, casinos, amphitheaters and storied venues like Radio City Music Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, the Greek Theatre and Royal Albert Hall.
Her latest album, “Embrace Me,” features her takes on classics like “Embraceable You” and “The Man I Love.”
The New Lionel Hampton Big Band also features trumpeters Anibal Martinez and Vinnie Cutro, trombonist Robert Trowers, saxophonists Cleave E. Guyton Jr., Lance Bryant and James Stewart, pianist Kuni Mikami, bassist Christian Fabian and drummer David F. Gibson.
All evening concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Kibbie Dome, 711 S. Rayburn St., Moscow.
Sielert is looking forward to the evening concerts, but he’s especially excited to be a fly on the wall and see students’ excitement as they complete a clinic or watch an evening concert.
Speaking from experience, Sielert is sure participating in the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival will inspire at least a few musicians to continue with their studies.
“When I was in high school, seeing these really, really amazing musicians on the stage and experiencing a jazz performance at that high of a level, that was what inspired me to go home and practice and listen more,” he said. “I wanted more. I wanted to go hear more music. I wanted to do that. I wanted to play. In rural Eastern Washington, northern Idaho, we don’t get a lot of those experiences very often. I think that might be one of the coolest parts.”
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