November 14, 2013
13-341

Jessica Pope
Communications Specialist

Dennis Mackrel Performs with VSU Jazz Ensemble Nov. 21

VALDOSTA — The Valdosta State University Jazz Ensemble, featuring special guest Dennis Mackrel, will perform at 7:30 pm on Thursday, Nov. 21, on the Whitehead Auditorium stage. Admission is free of charge and open to the public.

A world-renowned drummer, composer, and arranger, Mackrel, 51, was just 2 years old when he began playing the drums. He was considered a professional musician at the age of 10 and named to Who’s Who in Music as a teenager.

Mackrel studied at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, where he was a member of the jazz ensemble. His drumming and arranging skills caught the eye of Joe Williams, a well-known jazz vocalist and Cordele, Ga., native.

In 1981, a 19-year-old Mackrel moved to New York City, where he landed a job as a drummer on Broadway. Two years later he was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant for composition and joined the world famous Count Basie Orchestra, having been personally recommended by Williams. He remained with the orchestra until 1987 when he returned to New York.

Mackrel quickly became the drummer of choice for such ensembles as the American Jazz Orchestra, the Carla Bley Big Band, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Buck Clayton’s Swing Band, and the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band, as well as such noted artists as Monty Alexander, Tony Bennett, Quincy Jones, Hank Jones, and Sir George Shearing. He has also served as guest conductor, arranger, and soloist for ensembles across Europe, in Denmark, Holland, and Germany. His original musical compositions and arrangements have been recorded by several seasoned groups, including the Count Basie Orchestra and McCoy Tyner Big Band, whose Grammy-winning CDs included four of his arrangements.

The VSU Jazz Ensemble will perform some of Mackrel’s original compositions, as well as his arrangements of pieces originally written by Duke Ellington and McCoy Tyner, during the upcoming concert.

The VSU Jazz Ensemble is directed by David Springfield, assistant professor of jazz piano and director of the university’s Jazz Studies Program in the Department of Music. He can be reached at (229) 333-5805 or daspring@valodsta.edu.

Whitehead Auditorium is located on the first floor of the VSU Fine Arts Building, at the intersection of Brookwood Drive and Oak Street.