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Joe McQueen smiles during a break playing with his quartet. (Joshua Wineholt / The Signpost)

Weber State University orchestrated its third annual jazz festival at the Val A. Browning Center on Feb. 16.

The festival highlighted performances from a few of northern Utah’s middle school and high school jazz bands, including bands from Ogden, Layton and Clearfield. The performances were followed by Weber State’s own jazz ensemble later that evening.

Daniel Jonas, director of Weber State’s jazz ensemble, said when he first began the festival two years ago, he wanted to bring in an outside talent each year to contribute and work with the performers.

“It’s important that we feature a guest artist,” Jonas said. “We need someone who is not only an incredible performer and musician but also an incredible educator who can get students excited and passionate about jazz music.”

This year’s guest artist was Ben Markley, director of jazz studies at the University of Wyoming.

Markley has received critical acclaim for his recording project Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton, which was selected as one of the best four-star rated albums of 2017 by DownBeat magazine.

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Joe McQueen's saxophone sits waiting for him before the show. (Joshua Wineholt / The Signpost)

Weber State’s jazz ensemble performed eight songs, including an original composition by Markley, “But this time I mean it,” as well as compositions from jazz musician and big band, Cedar Walton and Count Basie Orchestra.

Markley complimented Jonas and the Weber State jazz ensemble for their work during the band’s rehearsals.

“It was a real pleasure to work with the students at Weber State,” Markley said. “They showed a true reflection upon their great director.”

Jonas acknowledged difficulties that come with writing a composition.

According to Jonas, the most difficult challenge a composer is tasked with is to successfully arrange a ballad, an intimate and melodic song that tells a story without lyrics being sung.

Weber State jazz ensemble performed the ballad “All of Me” by Cedar Walton, which highlighted some of the key factors Jonas described.

“A ballad must be slow, challenging and make use of all its time,” Jonas said.

The festival also attracted new faces to the world of jazz.

Weber State student Ben Moore said this was the first jazz concert he had
been to.

“Compared to the music I listen to, jazz music is unlike anything that I’ve ever heard before. I was impressed with how the various jazz instruments were able to work together,” Moore said.

All of the band members of the Weber State jazz ensemble were given the opportunity to perform a solo, which signified the importance and distinct characteristics of each jazz instrument in a band.

Saxophones, trumpets, trombones, drums, pianos and cello were instruments played by the Weber State jazz ensemble.

“It’s a great time to be a fan of Jazz music in Ogden,” Jonas said.

Jonas acknowledged 100-year-old jazz legend and Ogden local Joe McQueen, who continues to perform with his band, The McQueen Quartet, at venues
in Ogden.

The McQueen Quartet will perform at the Gallivan Center in Salt Lake City on May 29.

In Ogden, monthly jazz sessions are held every third Thursday of the month at the Kaffé Mercantile on 26th street and Harrison Blvd.

After working with the Weber State jazz ensemble and the middle schools and high schools who performed at the festival, Jonas is optimistic about the direction jazz is headed.

“The future of jazz is secure,” Jonas said.

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