Contact: Wendel Sloan at 575.562.2253
Reporter: Robin Haislett
PORTALES--Eastern New Mexico University will host its annual Jazz Fest on Thursday, March 11 at 7 p.m. and Friday, March 12 at 7 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Portales. The concerts are free and open to the public.
The nationally and internationally prominent alto saxophone player and composer Bobby Watson of Kansas City, Mo., is the featured guest artist. Chris Beaty, associate professor of music, describes Watson’s music as “Post-Bop Jazz” and cites Watson’s “amazing saxophone ability.”
Watson will perform both nights of the Jazz Festival, collaborating with the ENMU Jazz Ensemble and the Faculty/Pro Ensemble made up of Neil Rutland drums, Travis Erwin bass guitar and Steve Figueroa of Albuquerque piano . The Student Combo, directed by Beaty, will start off the festivities Thursday night. Beaty’s daughter, Emma, will perform the vocal piece of “Route 66” with the accompaniment of the Jazz Ensemble.
Watson is also giving a master class for the saxophone and jazz students and will be a guest lecturer in the jazz history class. “It’s more than just the Jazz Fest for our guest artists; it’s like a residency,” explains Beaty.
The Jazz Fest was started by Beaty in 2001, just one year after he joined the ENMU faculty and has continued the annual showcase. “It’s been growing every year and I think the community really gets behind it,” says Beaty. “They get to see a nationally prominent artist and people look forward to it the second week of every March.”
Beaty saw the need for a jazz festival on the eastern side of the state since it was “devoid of any kind of jazz festival.” The area has seen a growth in jazz festivals, including Roswell and the start of another festival in Artesia. “It was an added benefit that I didn’t anticipate.” says Beaty.
The support for the Jazz Fest comes from the ENMU Department of Music, other supporters and the ticket sales of the Big Band Dance held every fall in Clovis. “Opportunities to enjoy this kind of music festival in the area are few and far between,” says Beaty.
For more information, contact Beaty at 575-562-2471.