Lizz Wright

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Lizz Wright, Storms/Nocturnes headline Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Lizz Wright and the immersive trio Storms/Nocturnes headline Lawrence University’s 37th annual salute to all things jazz.

Lizz Wright outdoors leaning on a fence
Singer Lizz Wright opens this year’s Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend with a performance Friday, Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. (Photo by Jesse Kitt.)

Wright opens the two-concert weekend Friday, Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. while Storms/Nocturnes shares the stage with Lawrence’s own 18-member jazz ensemble Saturday, Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. to close the Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend. Both concerts are in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel.

Tickets, at $30/$25 for adults, $25/$20 for seniors and $20/$18 for students are available through the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749.

Wright, who NPR describes as “a sophisticated straddler of down-home blues, jazz, gospel, folk, southern pop and confessional singer-songwriter traditions,” will feature her latest studio album “Grace,” which was released in September. The album is an unadulterated reflection of Wright’s sense of place and belonging that’s deeply woven into the cultural fabric of America.

An invitation to openly contemplate our humanity, “Grace” is Wright’s proclamation to unearth our fundamental kindness and generosity. She uses it as vocal rite of passage, tracing the landscape between her native central and south Georgia and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, N.C., where she currently makes her home.

“Grace” showcases the warm and weathered colors of Wright’s voice. Leaning into curated classics and contemporary covers, she pierces form with gentle and unfettered individuality.Album cover for Lizz Wright's "Grace"

“Lizz Wright is one of the most captivating vocalists in the jazz world today” said Patty Darling, director of the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble and instructor of music. “With her powerful voice, she blends elements of gospel, blues, jazz, folk and pop music to create songs that inspire and connect her audiences.”

Storms/Nocturnes, a trio of international jazz giants — British saxophone legend Tim Garland, world-leading vibraphone virtuoso Joe Locke and Grammy Award-nominee pianist Geoffrey Keezer — create a unique three-way dialogue of captivating, immersive music. Melding their distinct styles and backgrounds, they create music that can be spacious or immensely complex, delicate but almost orchestral in depth. They collectively find their way into a new mood or feel before the listener realizes they have left the old one.

“Lizz Wright is one of the most captivating vocalists in the jazz world today.”
— Patty Darling, director of the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble

Garland was voted “Musician of the Year” in 2006 by the Cross-Parliamentary Jazz Society. He has received commissions from the London Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Concert Orchestra and the Westminster Abbey Choir, as well as numerous small and large jazz-based ensembles.

He earned a 2009 Grammy Award for helping create “The New Crystal Silence,” which celebrated the long partnership between jazz legends Chick Corea and Gary Burton.

Locke, a vibraphonist renowned for stunning physical power and broad emotional range, has topped music polls and won multiple awards, including Earshot Golden Ear Awards for “Concert of the Year” and 2016 “Mallet Player of the Year” from the Jazz Journalists Association.

Jazz trio Storms/Nocturnes
Storms/Nocturnes — pianist Geoffrey Keezer, saxophonist Tim Garland and vibraphonist Tim Locke — perform Saturday, Nov. 4 at 7:30 as part of Fred Sturm Jezz Celebration Weekend. They’ll be joined by the Lawrence University Jezz Ensemble.

London’s Royal Academy of Music appointed Locke Visiting International Vibraphone Consultant in 2008 and last year he was honored by his hometown of Rochester, N.Y., with induction into the city’s Music Hall of Fame.

Keezer, an Eau Claire native and two-time Grammy Award nominee, began playing jazz clubs as a teenager and was touring the country in his 20s with such jazz luminaries as Joshua Redman and Benny Golson.

They are incredible performers and composers who are so tight in their bonds with each other. Their musical energy, passion and communication must be experienced.”
— Patty Darling on Storms/Nocturnes

His intellectually abstract lyricism woven over exotically complex rhythms and harmonies makes him one of the most sought-after artists on the modern jazz scene.

Keezer has performed on projects ranging from solo to duo to quartet, from bandleader to big band, from post-bop jazz to electronica to global fusion. His 2009 CD “Áurea” earned a Best Latin Jazz album Grammy nomination. He teamed with Garland and Locke on the album “Via” in 2011 while he released his latest solo piano disk, “Heart of the Piano” in 2013.

Darling is excited about having LUJE join the talented trio on stage.

“They are incredible performers and composers who are so tight in their bonds with each other,” said Darling. “Their musical energy, passion and communication must be experienced. It will be a huge thrill for our students to perform with them.”

In addition to the two evening concerts, Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend features a series of free performances and clinics by Lawrence combos, big bands, jazz faculty and high school bands, with more than 700 high school and middle school students participating throughout the day on Saturday. A complete schedule can be found here.

Lawrence’s annual Jazz Celebration Weekend was renamed two years ago in honor of long-time music professor Fred Sturm, its founder and mentor who passed away in 2014.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

2017-18 Lawrence Performing Arts Series features renowned classical, jazz musicians

More than a dozen world-class artists will grace the stage of the Lawrence Memorial Chapel during Lawrence University’s 2017-18 Performing Arts Series.

Subscriptions for both the Artist and Jazz series are on sale now. Subscribers may choose from either series for a “Favorite 4” package, with discounts available to senior citizens and students. Single-concert tickets go on sale Sept. 18. For more information, contact the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749 or

The Artist Series     

• Jonathan Biss, piano, Friday, Oct. 6, 8 p.m.

A head shot of pianist Jonathan Biss
Pianist Jonathan Biss. Photo by Benjamin Ealovega.

Since making his New York City recital debut as a 20-year old in 2000, Biss has performed with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, and many other of the world’s leading orchestras.

He performs regularly as a guest soloist throughout Europe and in 2002 became first American to be named the BBC’s “New Generation Artist.”

Biss is currently in his second year of the “Beethoven/5” project, in which he will premiere five new piano concertos, each inspired by one of Beethoven’s. He opened the project in 2016 with “The Blind Banister” by Timo Andre, which was a finalist for Pulitzer Prize in Music. Later this year he will debut Sally Beamish’s concerto with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

• Sasha Cooke, mezzo soprano, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, 8 p.m.

A head shot of singer Sasha Cooke
Mezzo soprano Sasha Cooke

A 2011 Grammy Award-winner for her electrifying performance as Kitty Oppenheimer in the Metropolitan Opera premiere of “Doctor Atomic,” Cooke has been racking up acclaim and honors since graduating from Rice University and the Juilliard School, where she made her professional debut.

Hailed by the New York Times as “a luminous standout,” Cooke specializes in contemporary opera and is renowned for her work with the music of Gustav Mahler, which she has performed to robust praise on four continents.

A much-in-demand singer, Cooke has performed with nearly 30 orchestras around the world from New York to New Zealand and from San Francisco to Shanghai.

She released her debut solo album “If you love for beauty” with the Colburn Orchestra in 2012, one of six albums in her discography. Her latest, “Liszt: The Complete Songs, Vol 4” was released in 20

• Colin Currie, percussion, Friday, March 30, 2018, 8 p.m.

A photo of percussionist Colin Currie.
Percussionist Colin Currie

A champion of new music at the highest level, Currie has been called “the world’s finest and most daring percussionist” by British magazine The Spectator. A graduate of England’s Royal Academy of Music, Currie performs regularly with the world’s leading orchestras and conductors.

Known as an adventurous soloist with an unmatched commitment to creating new music, Currie was recognized by the Royal Philharmonic Society in 2000 with its Young Artist Award and in 2015 with its prestigious Instrumentalist Award.

Professor of Music Dane Richeson, who teaches percussion in the Lawrence conservatory, said Currie “ranks right there with the top contemporary percussionists in the world.”

“Colin has inspired many new compositions that have led the way in breaking new ground for the percussive arts, bringing whole new audiences and appreciation to the art form,” said Richeson. “We’re all grateful for his musical mastery.”

Currie’s 13-album discography includes 2016’s “Dawn to Dust” with the Utah Symphony.

• Joshua Roman, cello, with JACK Quartet, Saturday, April 21, 2018, 8 p.m.

A photo of cellist Joshua Roman.
Cellist Joshua Roman

The 33-year old Roman has earned an international reputation for his wide-ranging repertoire, artistic leadership and versatility. Beyond being a celebrated performer, he is recognized as an accomplished composer and curator.

As artistic director of Seattle’s TownMusic, Roman has showcased his own eclectic musical influences and chamber music favorites while also promoting newly commissioned works. His cultural leadership utilizes digital platforms to harness new audiences, including YouTube for his “Everyday Bach” project, in which he performs Bach’s cello suites in gorgeous settings around the world.

A photo of the musical quartet JACK Quartet
JACK Quartet

He’ll be joined by the JACK Quartet — violinists Christopher Otto and Ari Streisfeld, violinist John Pickford Richards and cellist Kevin McFarland. Founded in 2007 and based in New York City, the quartet was called “superheroes of the new music world” by the Boston Globe.

Their performances at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center were met with critical acclaim and their commitment to new music has earned them the CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming and New Music USA’s Trailblazer Award.

The Jazz Series

• Lizz Wright, vocalist, Friday, November 3, 7:30 p.m.

A headshot of singer Lizz Wright
Singer Lizz Wright. Photo by Jesse Kitt.

The charismatic, honey-voiced Wright opens Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend. A native of Georgia who makes her home now in North Carolina, Wright’s musical baptism began in church. Her early gospel roots have since been fused with jazz, blues, folk and R&B, earning comparisons to Norah Jones.

She has drawn critical raves since her debut album, “Salt,” zoomed to the top of the contemporary jazz charts in 2003.  Through her three following discs, Wright has demonstrated her innovative interpretation skills and established herself as popular song stylist.

• Storms/Nocturnes with the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble, Saturday, Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m.

A photo of the trio Storms/Nocturnes

Combine British saxophone legend Tim Garland, world-class vibraphone virtuoso Joe Locke and recent Grammy nominee pianist Geoffrey Keezer and you have a chamber jazz trio with few peers. The extraordinary combination serves as the bookend to Lizz Wright for Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend.

As Storms/Nocturnes, the three artists combine their distinctive talents and diverse backgrounds to create captivating music that can be spacious or immensely complex one moment and delicate the next. No less an authority than jazz legend Chick Corea has said “This trio truly sizzles with virtuosity and creativity.”

After collaborating on a pair of successful releases, “Storms/Nocturnes” in 2002 and “Rising Tide” in 2003, the trio members spent seven years working on individual projects and with other bands before reuniting in 2010 to release the 10-track disc “VIA” the following year. The reunion revived one of the most timeless intercontinental jazz collaborations in the world today.

• Joe Lovano Classic Quartet, Friday, February 2, 2018, 8 p.m.

A photo of saxophonist Joe Lovano
Saxophonist Joe Lavano

For more than 20 years, Lovano has enjoyed an international reputation as one of the world’s premiere tenor saxophonists. Allmusic critic Chris Kelsey has described him as “the tenor titan for our times.”

A 2000 Grammy Award winner, Lovano more recently was recognized by DownBeat magazine and the Jazz Journalists Association as 2014’s tenor saxophonist of the year.

José Encarnación, director of jazz studies at Lawrence who met Lovano at the Heineken Jazz Festival in the late 1990s, calls him “one of my favorite saxophone players ever.

“Joe’s unique voice on the saxophone, or any other instrument he plays, is so full of expression and freedom,” said Encarnación. “He possesses that innate ability in his playing to convey the sense of fresh spontaneity that has always characterized the music’s greatest improvisers.”

• Vijay Iyer Sextet, Friday, May 11, 2018, 8 p.m.

A photo of pianist Vijay Iyer
Pianist Vijay Iyer

A three-time recipient (2012, ’15, ’16) of DownBeat magazine’s “Artist of the Year” honor, Iyer unprecedentedly added Pianist of the Year, Jazz Album of the Year, Jazz Group of the Year and Rising Star Composer honors in the 2012 Downbeat International Critics Poll.

It’s little wonder the The New York Times wrote “There’s probably no frame wide enough to encompass the creative output of the pianist Vijay Iyer.”

The recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 2013, Iyer has expanded his acclaimed piano trio to a sextet by adding renowned horn players Graham Haynes, Steve Lehman and Mark Shim.

In 2014, Iyer began a permanent appointment as the Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts in Harvard University’s music department.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.