Described by Duke Ellington as “soul upon soul”, Mary Lou Williams has been an extremely influential jazz pianist, arranger and composer for over 60 years. From “Mess-A-Stomp”, recorded in 1929 by Andy Kirk and his Clouds of Joy, to “Shafi”, composed in 1979, the concert will encompass an unusually wide range of jazz styles. The program will also include compositions written by Williams for Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington, including “In the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee”, “Roll Em ‘”, “Scorpio”, “Walkin’ and Swingin ‘” and “What’s your story, Morning Glory?” “

Pianist and composer Carmen Staaf is a rising force on the New York and global music scene. She is currently the pianist and musical director of the NEA Jazz Master Dee Dee Bridgewater. Past performances include the Playboy Jazz Festival with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and the Kennedy Center alongside Kenny Barron and Fred Hersch. The staff earned a double degree from Tufts University (anthropology) and the New England Conservatory (jazz performance) and quickly became one of the youngest faculty members to ever hire Berklee College of Music, joining their piano department in 2005. After a period of touring and recording, and winning the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Pianist Competition, she was accepted into the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance. Staaf co-leads the group Science Fair with drummer Allison Miller; the group’s self-titled debut album features Ambrose Akinmusire, Dayna Stephens and Matt Penman. She performs regularly with Boom Tic Boom Allison Miller, violinist Jenny Scheinman and Parlor Game Allison Miller (with Tony Scherr), drummer Jeff Williams and singer / songwriter Thana Alexa. An active educator, Staaf has held faculty positions at Berklee College of Music, The New School, Stanford Jazz Institute, Jacob’s Pillow, Litchfield Jazz Camp, and the New York Jazz Academy.The first fully accredited jazz studies program at a music conservatory, the NEC Jazz Studies Department was designed by Gunther Schuller, who quickly incorporated jazz into the curriculum when he became president of the conservatory in 1967 Schuller hired Carl Atkins to head the department, along with George Russell, Jaki Byard, and Ran Blake. Among the “world’s most acclaimed and successful” (JazzTimes), the program has spawned many Grammy-winning composers and performers and has a roster of alumni that reads like a who’s who of jazz, while the faculty included six MacArthur “genius” scholarship recipients (three currently teaching) and four NEA Jazz Masters. The foundation of her teaching and her success begins with the mentoring relationship developed in the courses between the students and the distinguished artists on the faculty. In addition to its two jazz orchestras, small teacher-led ensembles reflect NEC’s inclusive approach to music creation, with groups focusing on free jazz, ancient jazz, gospel music, Brazilian music and songwriting, as well as more traditional approaches to jazz performance. Each jazz student is encouraged to find their own musical voice while connecting and collaborating with a vibrant community of creative musicians, and ultimately transforming the world through the power of music.ABOUT THE NEW ENGLAND CONSERVATORY
The New England Conservatory (NEC) is recognized internationally as a leader among music schools, educating and training musicians of all ages from around the world for over 150 years. With 800 music students representing over 40 countries in the College and 2,000 youth and adults studying in the preparatory and continuing education divisions, NEC cultivates a diverse and vibrant community for students, providing them with performance and training opportunities. high caliber with esteemed artist-teachers and academics. Alumni, faculty and students of NEC touch almost every aspect of musical life in the region; NEC is a major driver of the vital activity that makes Boston a musical and cultural capital.

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