Tonight the lights in the Ford Center will rise once again to shine on a group of elite performers. This time, the talent on display comes from our own music department.
The Mississippians, an 18-member band, is the premier student jazz ensemble at the University of Mississippi.
The group is under the direction of Michael Worthy, associate professor of music, and ranges from brand-new freshman to seasoned doctoral students.
“The Mississippians are one of the oldest jazz ensembles in the nation with a lineage that goes back to a University-sponsored group of student musicians who performed dance music in the late 1890s,” Worthy said.
A jazz band led by Dick McCool used the name “Mississippians” in 1927 for the first time.
According to his official website, acclaimed pianist Mose Allison spent a short time with the ensemble as the arranger, pianist and trumpet player. Famous tenor saxophonist Brew Moore also spent a short time with the ensemble in the early 1940’s.
From classic swing similar to the Count Basie Orchestra, to a rendition of Radiohead, styles of all sorts will be on display tonight.
“Jazz is unique in that so many styles are encompassed within the same genre,” Tyler Kuntz, sophomore bassist for the Mississippians, said. “We make sure there’s something for everyone.”
Kuntz said that a good part of the performance will be synthesized on the spot, right in front of the audience, and that in a jazz ensemble, each individual player has more weight and responsibility to carry.
“Our fantastic players know how to take their musical knowledge and ability and use it to spontaneously develop and articulate their ideas, incorporating it into the music,” Kuntz said.
The group will be accompanied by the Collegians, an ensemble for developing musicians directed by Wade Irvin.
Worthy said he is ready to present their set and to play in the Ford Center, and he is especially excited to be presenting his first Middle Eastern piece, “Among The Pyramids” by Fred Stride.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a jazz aficionado or a first-timer,” Kuntz said. “Put down your iPod, come out Thursday night and hear two bands bring you some amazing music. “