Toledo gets jazzy

Emily Jackson / IC

Emily Jackson / IC

Mariah Williams, Staff Reporter

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Each year, more than 200 music lovers in the Toledo community gather for a jazz-style piano concert.

The University of Toledo Department of Music Jazz Studies Program hosted their 26th annual Art Tatum Memorial Jazz Scholarship Concert Feb. 20 from 7 – 8 p.m. in UT’s Center for Performing Arts Recital Hall.

Gunnar Mossblad, director of jazz studies and professor of saxophone, introduced this event as one installment of the UT jazz concert series presented every semester.

The program sponsors many jazz events both on and off campus and hosts weekly jazz nights, which feature both faculty and students. The jazz department also hosts various ensemble concerts throughout the semester where a number of groups perform, including CrossCurrents, which is made up of only faculty members.

“Jazz is a performance art form that offers a palette of colors and textures that a jazz artist can use to create a personal musical statement,” Mossblad said.

This year’s featured performer was award-winning musician Phil DeGreg, a professor of jazz studies at the University of Cincinnati and a professional jazz pianist who performs internationally.

DeGreg was inducted into Cincinnati Jazz Hall of Fame this year, won eight Citybeat Magazine Cincinnati Entertainer Awards, a Fulbright Fellowship in Brazil and was a finalist in the Great American Jazz Piano Competition in 1996.

He is proficient in a wide range of jazz styles and has been playing piano since his childhood.

Before becoming a professional musician, he received his undergraduate degree in psychology from Yale University. He then went on to study music in Kansas City and later obtained his master’s degree from the University of North Texas.

It was at the University of North Texas that DeGreg and Mossblad met.

“We ran into each other at the Jazz Education Network convention recently and he suggested bringing me in for this,” DeGreg said.

During the performance, the two even played a duet together with Mossblad on saxophone and DeGreg on piano.

DeGreg has recorded and published much of his music into eleven albums and has worked alongside fellow musicians on numerous projects. In addition, he created a book with piano lessons and exercises for aspiring jazz pianists.

According to DeGreg, his most significant achievement to date is a jazz trio recording that is set to be released this spring.

“As musicians, we have a lot of fun making improvised sound together. Hopefully the process and the result are something people find interesting,” DeGreg said.

The proceeds from the event go to support the UT Art Tatum Memorial Jazz Scholarship. This scholarship is presented yearly to one student studying jazz performance at UT. The concert and the scholarship are given in honor of Art Tatum, a Toledo-born jazz pianist, who became famous in the early 1900s.

The scholarship is awarded in the fall, and the amount awarded varies based on the availability of funds from the foundation.

Last year’s recipient was Michael Reed, a third-year jazz performance major who specializes in percussion instruments.

“The jazz department has been very instrumental in my growth as a musician, and I am very appreciative of them,” Reed said. “I really enjoy jazz music and being able to express myself through my playing.”

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Toledo gets jazzy