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RJO Concert Season of 2019

by Chuck Reider

Kurt Elling and a Loving tribute to Aretha Franklin headline the RJO concert season of 2019.

With a successful Jazz in the Schools weekend in our rear-view mirror I thought now would be a good time to let you know what the rest of 2019 will bring.  Let me start with our two summer programs.

The Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO) will heat up the summer with “The Queen of Soul-A Loving Tribute to Aretha Franklin”.  Aretha was a vocal master you know so well by her hits, but did you know her recording career started as a jazz singer and that she stepped in for Pavarotti at the Grammys?  Indeed she did and it was at the last moment.  When Sting let the audience know that Pavarotti’s doctors would not let him sing due to a sore throat, Aretha was backstage and asked if she could listen to Pavarrotti’s rehearsal tape.   After hearing it she said, ”I can do this”.  She had learned “Nessun Dorma”, the aria Pavarotti was set to perform, for a private party for Pavarotti a year prior.  So, with thirty minutes notice and no rehearsal Franklin went on stage and mesmerized the audience with her stunning rendition.  Join us either July 15th at the Hawkins Amphitheater or July 21st at the Trepp Amphitheater in Sand Harbor.  The RJO will be recruiting four Aretha “divas” to alternately take the lead and sing back up.  Franklin’s back up singers were known as the Sweet Inspirations and were successful recording artists in their own right.  Backing Franklin on some of her most famous recordings they also backed up Van Morrison, Elvis, Wilson Pickett, and can even be heard on Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 album Electric Ladyland.  Members over the years included Cissy Houston, mother of Whitney Houston, Dee Dee and Dionne Warwick, and Estelle Brown.  I guarantee a full dose of Franklin’s memorable hits, gospel, some of her jazz material, and hey maybe a little opera.  Why not? 

To close the summer season we are thrilled to announce Kurt Elling will be our guest artist for the Labor Day weekend.  The New York Times declared Elling “the standout male vocalist of our time”.  His accolades include a fourteen-year run atop the DownBeat Critics Poll, a dozen GRAMMY nominations, a GRAMMY award for Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman, and eight Jazz Journalists Association awards for “Male Singer of the Year.”  All the awards may get your attention, but it is his instantly recognizable voice, embracing listeners with his warm, rich baritone and navigating the full span of his four-octave range as a virtuoso instrumentalist and a compelling storyteller that will captivate you.  I have been a fan for many years and this past fall my wife Candy and I were fortunate to see him perform at the legendary jazz club Ronnie Scott’s in London.  Though a jazzman for sure he opened his set with Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain is Going to Fall and magically turned it into his song. 

His music and wit appeal to the full range of music lovers, from the novice jazz fan to the most jaded jazz hipster.  A native Chicagoan he began singing at night while studying at the University of Chicago Divinity School by day eventually holding court at the city’s revered Green Mill Lounge.  His debut album on Blue Note Records with Close Your Eyes in 1995 secured his first GRAMMY nomination.  He is currently touring with his quintet promoting his latest CD The Questions but as varied an artist he is he is also a featured artist in Jazz Beyond Borders: From the Golden Gate to The Great Wall in San Francisco and Kurt Elling Presents "The Big Blind" - A Jazz Radio Drama at Jazz At Lincoln Center in New York City.  Elling does not regularly perform with big bands so it is a real treat for the RJO to present him in that setting.

Of course, there is a lot more to come this year beyond Aretha and Kurt Elling.  Our education program continues with the Mentor program where RJO musicians mentor WCSD jazz bands and our Saturday student jazz workshop which begins March 23rd and concludes with a capstone performance 5/31 as the opening act for the RJO.  The workshops are all about learning to improvise jazz by learning tunes and improvising a solo over them all by ear. 

April 27th we will perform a noon time concert in UNR’s Nightingale Hall as a part of the Reno Jazz Festival.  For twenty years we have performed a free one-hour concert for the participating students where we announce our UNR jazz studies scholarship winner.  This one is free and open to the public.  We have scheduled four concerts at our home in midtown that we share with the Good Luck Macbeth theater group.  Put May 31st, June 1st, November 8th and November 9th on your calendar now as seating is limited and the setting for a big band intimate.  A guest conductor will pick the program and rehearse the band so stay tuned to hear who will conduct.  In mid-August the RJO has closed Carson City’s Jazz and Beyond festival each of it’s ten years and would be honored to do the same this year.  We end the year with our annual Jazz for the Holidays December 13th and 14th at the Cargo Concert Hall in the Whitney Peak Hotel.  We haven’t decided on that program yet so feel free to share some ideas.  Just so you don’t have to write down all the dates, here is a schedule of events you can cut out and put on the fridge:

Reno Jazz Orchestra 2019

  • March – May: Student Jazz Workshop Saturday mornings
  • 4/27: Reno Jazz Festival
    • Noon, Nightingale Hall
  • 5/31, 6/1: Hall Concert
    • 7:30 pm, Union Hall 124 West Taylor Street
  • 7/15: The Queen of Soul-A Loving Tribute to Aretha Franklin Artown
    • 7:30 pm, Hawkins Amphitheater
  • 7/21: The Queen of Soul-A Loving Tribute to Aretha Franklin
    • 7:30 pm, Trepp Amphitheater Sand Harbor
  • Aug. TBD: Jazz and Beyond, Carson City
  • 8/30: Kurt Elling
    • 7:30 pm, Pioneer Theater
  • 8/31: Kurt Elling
    • 7:30 pm, Trepp Amphitheater Sand Harbor
  • Sept-Nov: Student Jazz Workshop Saturday mornings
  • 11/8, 11/9: Hall Concert
    • 7:30 pm, Union Hall 124 West Taylor Street
  • 12/13-14: Jazz for the Holidays
    • 7:30p, 2:00pm Cargo Concert Hall

Want to be a real jazz hipster?  Get the latest info on our website

Chuck Reider is the Executive Director of the Reno Jazz Orchestra

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