For months, excitement built in the Graceland community for the Shaw Center Dedication’s two gala concerts. And with names like legendary trumpeter Jens Lindemann and international jazz icon Wycliffe Gordon at the top of the ticket, expectations climbed high. Factor in the rich talents of the Fountain City Brass Band (FCBB) and the beauty of the newly renovated Shaw Family Auditorium, and the evenings were projected to be two of the most memorable concerts the Shaw Center has seen.
“Home of Legends”: A Playful, Intimate Performance
Friday, October 19, Lindemann, Gordon, the FCBB, and a few surprise guests didn’t disappoint; the group more than exceeded expectations, filling the corners of the Auditorium with smooth jazz, explosive solos and a few laughs.
Friday’s “Home of Legends” concert opened with a catchy number by the FCBB, led by conductor Joseph Parisi. Afterwards, a giddy Frank Perez, Graceland Director of Bands, introduced Lindemann, whose commentary and personality throughout the night were as colorful as his deep purple blazer. Lindemann joked about the intimate nature of the concert, saying he would be friends with everyone in the room by the end of the night and noting he would expect keys to everyone’s front doors. Lindemann joked, “Thank you, thank you…I’m here all weekend, and I’ve been eating at the Pizza Shack…a lot.”
The concert steadily built, with Lindemann bringing out world-class French horn player Martin Hackleman to showcase his vast talents. Throughout the night’s performances, Lindemann swapped in and out different trumpets, favoring one a vibrant hue of blue. Lindemann drew in audience interaction, having the crowd shout “Ole!” during one piece, and having randomly selected members of the audience spin plastic tubes that made a whirring noise during another.
After a brief intermission, Gordon joined the ranks, showing off his signature mastery of the plunger mute and showcasing his skills in a playfully competitive battle with Lindemann.
As the night progressed, the pieces became more and more magnificent, as other impressive talents were added to the ticket: Kristian Alexandrov (piano), Chris Colagelo (bass) and Kendall Kay (drums). The crowd responded particularly to “Someone to Watch Over Me,” a smooth and intimate piece highlighted by Lindemann and Gordon.
The night concluded with a beautiful encore performance of “The South Rampart Parade” that showcased Gordon’s trumpet talent and Alexandrov’s versatility on the drums. The night ended to phenomenal applause from the audience, who were reluctant to leave the Auditorium, despite the quickly approaching Homecoming Fireworks Spectacular on the Campus Quad.
“Brass Fire”: Honoring the Generosity of Carol and JR
Saturday night’s “Brassfire” concert featured Lindemann, the FCBB and Gordon again, but this time the group was joined by other friends, including the remarkable talents of Canadian vocalist Shannon Gaye. The artists united perfectly to provide the jam-packed Shaw Family Auditorium audience with an array of world-class music they would never forget.
Once more, Lindemann was a playful host, introducing numbers, playing along on his horn, but also sometimes leaving his fabulous guests on stage to ‘do their own thing.’ JR and Carol Shaw were delighted by Lindemann’s personal tribute when he and his guests performed their world-premiere, improvisational piece, called “Blues for JR.” It was outstanding: it brought down the house.
Gordon entertained the audience by using his vocal part of “Blues for JR” to toy with the word “awe”, as in “…in awe of this gift from JR Shaw,” alluding to the weekend dedication of the expanded Shaw Center, and the gala concerts themselves.
Afterwards, Gordon wowed the audience with his tribute to Louis Armstrong. His tender rendering of “Muddy Waters,” and other pieces, were gems the audience loved. Lindemann connected again with Alexandrov and Gaye for some memorable pieces from J.S. Bach, Joaquin Rodrigo and Dizzy Gillespie.
Lindemann described Gaye as a little person with a lot of soul. He was right. Gaye’s vocals were beautiful, accompanied by a very talented Alexandrov, and joined by Lindemann at times that surprised the audience. Gaye was superb with her rendition of “It’s only a Paper Moon,” and Lindemann’s performance of “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” clearly one of his favorites, set the tone for an evening of musical magic.
Lindemann and guests played three encores before the audience would let them go. JR said later he looked forward to having the CD of the concert so he could listen again and again in his car to a concert he clearly loved.
Concert goers will not soon forget the “Brassfire” concert that spoke personally to each individual in attendance, including JR and Carol.
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