If you can’t make it to New Orleans for Mardi Gras this year, there’s no reason why you can’t celebrate close to home thanks to the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra (MJO). Don your beads and purple, green and yellow attire and escape to the Big Easy as the MJO presents a night full of the swinging sounds of New Orleans at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts in Fairfax on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 at 8 p.m.
This festive performance celebrates the signature musical style of New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz. The soulful mix of blues, ragtime, marches, church music and more that arose from this southern city captures an array of emotions from joy, celebration and optimism to sorrow, mourning and despair. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, this music played an invaluable role in rebuilding the heart of New Orleans, and helping our country realize that the culture of this vibrant southern city is a precious national treasure.
The Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra will be sure to thrill audiences with their program of New Orleans tunes by Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles and more. The performance will also feature an original composition by Michael “Doc Nix” Nickens, the director of Mason’s Green Machine Pep Band. Titled “A Mournful Procession,” the song was written after Hurricane Katrina as a tribute to the spirit of the great Louisiana city.
The concert will also feature guest performances by vocalist Darden Purcell, a Washington, D.C. Air Force Band vocalist; trumpeter Dave Robinson, who has performed with top D.C. area jazz and swing bands for more than 30 years; and the Capital Focus Jazz Band.
The Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra performs under the baton of director Jim Carroll, whose illustrious career includes performances at Carnegie Hall, the White House, the Kennedy Center, Royal Albert Hall and the Apollo Theatre. A versatile performer, Carroll has performed with Michael Jackson, Nancy Wilson, Maynard Ferguson, Billy Taylor, Woody Herman and His Thundering Herd, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and many others. Carroll also serves as the director of Jazz Studies at George Mason University.
If one night in Louisiana isn’t enough for you, be sure to check out the Turtle Island Quartet and special guest fiddler Michael Doucet when they come to the Center for the Arts on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 8 p.m. Titled “Louisiana Story,” this performance is inspired by the 1948 film of the same name, and explores Cajun music and the fascinating region that birthed this uniquely American genre.
Turtle Island Quartet was founded in 1985, when violinist David Balakrishnan developed the idea of a cross-genre string quartet while studying at Antioch University West. Founding members Balakrishnan and Mark Summer, widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest contemporary cellists, have since welcomed the young and alternative perspectives of violinist Mateusz Smoczynski and violist Benjamin von Gutzeit to the group. Winner of the 2006 and 2008 Grammy Awards for Best Classical Crossover, the Turtle Island Quartet is known for its ability to incorporate a diverse collection of musical genres, including folk, R&B, bluegrass and rock into the ensemble’s own original works.
Renowned fiddler Michael Doucet is the founder of Cajun band BeauSoleil. The group has received 11 Grammy nominations and one win in 2009 for Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album. A Louisiana native, Doucet has spent more than 30 years mastering his knowledge and skill of Cajun music. He first met the members of the Turtle Island Quartet in 1988, when he invited the ensemble to perform at the Festival International de Louisiane. A post-concert jam session culminated, more than 20 years later, in the creation of “Louisiana Story.”
The Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra and Turtle Island Quartet performances are Family Friendly: youth through grade 12 are half price when accompanied by an adult.
Tickets to these performances can be purchased at the box office at George Mason University's Center for the Arts (open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) or by calling 888-945-2468 or visiting cfa.gmu.edu. George Mason University's Center for the Arts is located on Mason's Fairfax Campus, at the intersection of Braddock Rd. and Rt. 123. Free parking is available in Lot K and paid parking is available in the Mason Pond Parking Deck adjacent to the Concert Hall.
For more information about these performances or other events at George Mason University's Center for the Arts, please visit cfa.gmu.edu. Like the Center for the Arts on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gmucfa and follow the Center for the Arts on Twitter at @GMU_CFA.
This article was written by Amanda Rodriguez, with assistance from Jill Graziano Laiacona.