After going virtual in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the annual UCF-Orlando Jazz Festival returns to UCF’s campus this month with a host of renowned jazz musicians. The 15th year of the event will feature two nights of performances, both taking place in the Nicholson Communication and Media Auditorium.
The festival will open on February 25 with a performance from Mike LeDonne on Hammond Organ. A jazz pianist known for post-bop and hard bop, LeDonne has performed with legendary jazz musicians including Benny Golson , Ernestine Anderson and Milt Jackson. LeDonne will play music from his newest release, It’s All Your Fault, accompanied by acclaimed tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander and UCF’s very own Flying Horse Big Band.
The Flying Horse Big Band is one of UCF’s premiere performing ensembles, having performed at festivals and concerts nationally and internationally. The band has had five recordings on the national jazz charts, including Jazz Town, The Blues is Alright, Into the Mystic, Big Man on Campus and The Bat Swings. The band is directed by Pegasus Professor and Director of Jazz Studies Jeff Rupert.
“We are very excited to bring to the Central Florida community the finest in jazz music,” says Rupert. “We are just as thrilled to have our students performing with Mike LeDonne and Eric Alexander. This is a special occasion. In addition, we are happy to celebrate Marty Morell’s work at UCF with a ‘Thank You’ concert featuring Marty with his long-time band mate with Bill Evans, the world renowned Eddie Gomez on bass. As we celebrate 100 years of the vibraphone, we are pleased to have Jason Marsalis join The Jazz Professors.”
On February 26, Jason Marsalis will perform with a trio of The Jazz Professors. Marsalis, a vibraphonist, is the son of celebrated jazz pianist and educator Ellis Louis Marsalis Jr. and a member of the famed Marsalis family of musicians. Alongside his brothers and father, Marsalis was named an NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor that the United States bestows upon jazz musicians. Members of The Jazz Professors performing with Marsalis include instructor of jazz studies Richard Drexler, associate professor of jazz piano Per Danielsson, and assistant professor of jazz percussion Clarence Penn.
Headlining the festival, Marty Morell and Eddie Gomez — who formed two-thirds of the legendary Bill Evans Trio — will perform accompanied by Richard Drexler on piano. The performance will serve to honor Morell, who stepped down as a professor of jazz set drumming last fall, and thank him for sharing his artistry and scholarship with UCF students.
The UCF-Orlando Jazz Festival will take place on Friday, February 25 and Saturday, February 26 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 for general admission, $10 for UCF faculty and staff and — thanks to a generous donation — free to all students with a valid ID. Click here to learn more and purchase tickets.