Lady Gaga’s big-band performances at the Park Theater are called, “Jazz & Piano,” but they could be called, “UNLV Jazz & Piano.”
Her lineup is filled with those who have been educated in, or are instructors for, the UNLV Jazz Studies Program. On that dazzling stage you will find instructors Gil Kaupp (trumpet), Nathan Tanouye (trombone) and Adam Schroeder (baritone sax), Danny Falcone (lead trumpet), Curt Miller (lead trombone), Neil Maxa (trombone), Phil Wigfall (lead alto sax), and Rob Mader (sax). Most of those players, too, are in the uniformly respected Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns lineup.
“We are teaching the next great musicians, and promoting jazz as a true American art form,” department head and conductor Dave Loeb says. “It seems Lady Gaga is, too.”
The school continues to pump out great musicians. You’ll have the chance to see them when those artists host “Essentially Ellington South West Regional Festival” on Thursday and Friday at UNLV’s Ham Hall. General admission tickets are $10 (a mere pittance), seniors and military with ID are $8, available at unlv.edu/pac or by calling 702-895-2787. CCSD, UNLV and CSN and participating students are free with ID.
Simply, the UNLV Jazz Studies Program is among the best in the country, as its Jazz Ensemble 1 topped the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival’s College Big Band Division in spring 2017 and were finalists in 2018.
The upcoming showcase features the great trumpet player Kenny Rampton, a Las Vegas native and member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra directed by Wynton Marsalis. Rampton has committed to be a clinician for the festival. His fellow Jazz at Lincoln Center artist Vincent Gardner, noted jazz trombonist, and invited guests are performing at 7 p.m. Thursday.
At 7 p.m. Friday, UNLV Latin Jazz Ensemble 1 takes the Ham Hall stage. The band is directed by Uli Geissendoerfer, a highly regarded jazz pianist and composer who routinely holds court at the cozy jazz hang Dispensary Lounge. Rampton, legendary jazz drummer Butch Miles of the Count Basie Orchestra are performing with Loeb and Tanouye — who also happens to write the horn charts for Celine Dion’s orchestra at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace.
Loeb spends his time away from instructing (and fundraising) by playing keyboards on Seth MacFarlane’s hit Fox-TV series “Family Guy,” and also on such films as “Ted,” “The Birdcage” and “Pocahontas.” He’s conducted the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, where he accompanied musical artists including Placido Domingo, James Galway, Bette Midler and Jessye Norman. He also served as bandleader for years for George Benson, worked with Doc Severinsen, arranged for the Academy Awards telecast, and has composed for PBS television and Dolly Parton.
But the UNLV Jazz Studies program has long been Loeb’s pure passion.
“We have the future of jazz at Ham Hall,” he says. “It’s vital to our arts to see these musicians. You won’t be disappointed.”
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.