Lawrence University Announces 2009-10 Artist and Jazz Performing Arts Series

APPLETON, WIS. — An eclectic mix of renowned performers and rising stars, including the multi-talented Bobby McFerrin and pianist Simone Dinnerstein, bring their musical virtuosity to Appleton for the eight concert 2009-10 Lawrence University Artist and Jazz Series.

New York’s internationally acclaimed African-American quintet Imani Winds opens the Artist Series season Oct. 17. The Paris-based Ebène String Quartet, known for its careful attention to dynamic detail, comes to the Lawrence Memorial Chapel Feb. 5. Acclaimed operatic tenor Anthony Dean Griffey performs with renowned pianist Warren Jones April 9. Dinnerstein, “a phenomenon in the world of classical music” according to the Washington Post, closes the series April 30.

Audience favorite Steve March Tormé opens the Jazz Series Nov. 6, kicking off Lawrence’s annual Jazz Celebration Weekend with the Lawrence Faculty Jazz. The Wisconsin Homegrown Jazz Quintet performs the second half of Jazz Celebration Weekend Nov. 7. McFerrin brings his inimitable style to the stage Feb. 19 in a performance with the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble. Bassist extraordinaire Christian McBride and his band Inside Straight closes the Jazz Series May 14.

Season subscriptions to either the artist, jazz or a “favorite 4” series that allows subscribers to select any combination of four concerts from either series, are currently on sale, with discounts available to senior citizens and students. Single-concert tickets go on sale Sept. 16. Contact the Lawrence Box Office at 920-832-6749.

Since its 1997 founding, the Grammy-nominated Imani Winds has carved out a distinct presence in the classical music world with its dynamic playing, culturally poignant programming and genre-blurring collaborations. With two member composers and a deep commitment to commissioning new work, the group is enriching the traditional wind quintet repertoire while bridging American, African, European and Latin American traditions.

The Ebène String Quartet — four young musicians from France all still in their 20s — has quickly become one of Europe’s most talked-about ensembles. The group made its American debut earlier this year in an eight-city concert tour to rave reviews. The New Yorker called their playing “so secure, alive, rich-toned, and profoundly musical that age ceased to be an issue.” The quartet is distinguished by its versatility, displaying equal facility in the classical repertoire and contemporary music.

Griffey, named one of 12 “exceptional singers of distinction” by Musical America magazine in 2005, added a pair of 2009 Grammy Awards (Best Opera Recording and Best Classical Album) in February to his impressive resume for his work on the Los Angeles Opera’s “Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.” He has captured critical and popular acclaim on opera, concert, and recital stages worldwide and is perhaps best known for his portrayal of the title character in Benjamin Britten’s “Peter Grimes,” which he has performed with New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the San Diego Opera. Long-time vocal coach Warren Jones, who will be Griffey’s accompanist, has been praised as “a singer’s greatest partner.”

Dinnerstein has gained international attention as a commanding and charismatic artist since making a triumphant New York recital debut at Carnegie Hall in 2005. She has performed around the world, including the Salle Cortot in Paris, the Copenhagen Music Festival and London’s Wigmore Hall. Her recording of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” was released in August 2007 and shot to No. 1 on the Billboard Classical Chart in its first week of sales. Piano Magazine hailed the disc as “precisely the kind of playing that the early 21st century most needs, infused as it is with a deep and pervasive sense of beauty and tenderness of heart.”

Tormé has spent the past three decades as a working musician since releasing his critically acclaimed debut record “Lucky” in the late 1970s. His concert repertoire spans the musical spectrum, from classic American standards to his own original music, which reflect the influences of the Beatles, Steely Dan and Todd Rundgren, among others. The New York Daily News has called Tormé “so personable, his voice so becoming and his performance so filled with élan, that he is always interesting.”

The Wisconsin Homegrown Jazz Quintet features five world-class instrumentalists all with state roots, including two with ties to Lawrence: bassist Ike Sturm, son of Lawrence’s director of jazz studies and improvisational music Fred Sturm, and drummer Zach Harmon, son of renowned composer John Harmon, the first director of Lawrence’s jazz studies program. The group’s members have worked with many jazz luminaries, among them Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Joshua Redman.

McFerrin, winner of 10 Grammy awards and creator of the iconic pop classic “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” makes his fourth appearance at Lawrence in a performance of “Migrations” with the LU Jazz Ensemble. The work, which McFerrin commissioned Fred Sturm to write, is a “musical plea for world unity” that showcases 23 indigenous songs from 21 countries. In the work, McFerrin improvises and interprets Sturm’s scores of an aboriginal chant from Australia, a Mbuti Pygmy tribal song of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and an Inuit chant from Greenland, among others.

Despite not yet turning 40 years of age, McBride has been among the most omnipresent figures in the jazz world for 20 years. Bassist, composer, arranger and educator, McBride’s career collaborations read like a Who’s Who of music’s most dynamic artists, including Sonny Rollins, James Brown, R&B superstars Isaac Hayes and Natalie Cole, pop icons Sting and Don Henley, hip-hop’s Queen Latifah, opera legend Kathleen Battle and bass virtuoso Edgar Meyer. The quintet “Christian McBride & Inside Straight” is scheduled to release its first CD, “Kind of Brown,” this June.