Sax players will descend on UI this week
URBANA — Expect to see a lot of people carrying saxophones this coming weekend at the University of Illinois.
The UI School of Music will host the biennial North American Saxophone Alliance conference on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The event is expected to draw 1,000 jazz and classical saxophonists, both amateur and professional. Among them will be Jeff Coffin, a three-time Grammy Award winner with Bla Fleck and the Flecktones and now a member of the Dave Matthews Band.
The conference will have master classes, competitions and performances, including paid concerts and free ones open to the public.
The featured performers besides Coffin include:
— Grammy Award winner Brad Leali, former lead saxophonist with the Harry Connick Jr. Orchestra;
— Frederick Hemke and Eugene Rousseau, who have appeared as recitalists and soloists with symphony orchestras and wind ensembles worldwide;
— The Eastman Saxophone Project, created in 2010 as the country's first "conductor-less" saxophone ensemble, made up of students from the saxophone studio at the Eastman School of Music; and
— The Capitol Quartet, a chamber ensemble of saxophonists who teach at outstanding music schools.
The conference will open at 7 p.m. Thursday at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts with a concerto featuring internationally known saxophonists Hemke, Clifford Leaman, Debra Richtmeyer, Timothy Roberts and Rousseau, performing with the UI Symphony Orchestra and the UI Wind Ensemble.
At 7 p.m. Friday, also at Krannert, Leali will join Grammy-nominated saxophonist-composer David Bixler and Grammy winner Chip McNeill, head of the UI jazz studies program, for a concert with the UI Concert Jazz Band.
At 7 p.m. Saturday at Krannert, Coffin will perform with Roy "Futureman" Wooten — drummer for Bla Fleck and the Flecktones — and conference co-hosts J. Michael Holmes and Richtmeyer.
Tickets to the Krannert concerts are $12 for students and $18 for the general public and available through the Krannert box office at 333-6280 or via krannertcenter.com.
The free performances:
— The Krannert Uncorked event at 5 p.m. Thursday on Stage 5 in the Krannert lobby will feature saxophonist Clark Gibson and his Old Style Jazz Sextet. Gibson, a graduate student at the UI, has played with Edgar Winter and toured with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.
— At 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Stage 5, the winners of the North American Saxophone Alliance jazz competition will perform, again for free.
— And each night of the conference will end with a "Jazz Nightcap" at 9, also in the Krannert lobby, hosted by McNeill or one of the guest artists.
For more information, visit nasaconference.com/.