World Class Jazz Comes to the Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts at SHU

News Story: October 8, 2006

Lew Anderson may have had his first taste of fame playing the silent clown Clarabell on the Howdy Doody Show, but when the Lew Anderson Big Band plays the Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts (ECPA) at Sacred Heart University on Sunday, October 22, at 3 p.m., you can be sure the “hardest swinging band in New York” won't be clowning around, and they'll be anything but silent.

Since 1998, the band has been a steadfast anchor to the weekend for New York jazz enthusiasts, playing every Friday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at what is arguably the world's center-point of jazz music, the Birdland Jazz Club. Under the steady direction of arranger, conductor and saxophonist Anderson, the band consistently won critical praise for their sound, style, and energy on stage.

“They're a terrific band. They play a terrific book,” says Eddie Stabile, one of the key organizers of the SHU Jazz Series, which kicks off with the October 22 concert.

Though the band officially changed their name to The Friday Night Band following Anderson's death in May, the decision was made to honor all bookings taken in his name; hence the October billing as the Lew Anderson Big Band. Now under the direction of drummer Tommy Igoe, the band continues the Friday night Birdland tradition with a ‘lemme-at-em' attitude that is second to none. Their appearance at the ECPA will be no exception.

“This is straight-ahead jazz,” Stabile says, anticipation palpable in his voice.

Joining Igoe and his band-mates at the Edgerton Center will be Giacomo Gates, world-renowned jazz vocalist nominated by the Jazz Journalists' Association as “Best Male Jazz Vocalist” three years running. In the same three years, the Down Beat Critics Poll voted Gates the “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition.”

Gates' life hasn't always been accolades, wine and roses, however. Part of his blue-collar man's man history includes a 14-year stint in Alaska working various jobs from building roads through the wilderness to laying a railroad across the flatland of the tundra, with no directional guides apart from a compass and the sky.

“Two things always struck me out there,” Gates says of the experience, “feeling insignificant and feeling very alive.”

That blend of humility and exuberance is a defining facet of Gates' stage presence – seeing no conflict between his roles as both student of the form ("Some of my favorite singers are Dexter Gordon, Ben Webster and Lester Young. They were singing through the horn. If that isn't singing, I don't know what is!”) and teacher (Gates teaches at Wesleyan University in Middletown, the Hartford Conservatory, and the Neighborhood Music School in New Haven). The vocalist is famed for his witty patter on stage and a sheer joy of performance reminiscent of early legends and inspirations like Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.

“In this kind of music,” Gates explains, “it's about intention, honesty and what comes through in your voice - the Experience of Life.”

Straight-ahead jazz, indeed.

For tickets, call the Edgerton Center Box Office at 203-371-7908. Prices are $25 general public, and $20 students/children/seniors/SHU faculty.

Forthcoming events in the Sacred Heart University Jazz Series include legendary improvisational guitarist Tony Purrone along with his trio of world class musicians, joined by eight-time Grammy winner, Cuban-born saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera. Performance Sunday, March 25, 2007, at 3 p.m.

Also appearing at the Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts will be Trio da Paz, featuring three of Brazil's most sought-after musicians, Romero Lubambo Nilson Matta, and Duduka da Fonseca. Performance Sunday, May 20, 2007, at 3 p.m.