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Quartet of Happiness headlines Coe 2015 Jazz Summit Grand Finale Concert

Extra: Rod Pritchard, Director of Marketing and Public Relations
(319) 399-8605 or rpritcha@coe.edu

2015-02-12 14:17:24 - General

Members of Quartet of Happiness include (left to right) Austin McMahon, Rick Stone, Kelly Roberge and Kendall Eddy.
Members of Quartet of Happiness include (left to right) Austin McMahon, Rick Stone, Kelly Roberge and Kendall Eddy.

Quartet of Happiness will provide a theatrical jazz experience for the audience at the Coe College 2015 Jazz Summit Grand Finale Concert on Saturday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. in Sinclair Auditorium. This year, more than 110 middle school and high school jazz bands from across the Midwest are participating in the Jazz Summit. Award winners will be recognized during the Grand Finale Concert intermission.

Tickets to the concert are available at the door or by calling the Coe Box Office at 319-399-8600 from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Prices are $10 for general admission and $8 for students and seniors.

The Grand Finale concert is the climax of a three-day jazz festival and seminar, held Feb. 26 - 28. Events held annually include concerts, workshops and a jazz band competition with awards. In its 24th year, this festival has grown to include more than 2,000 musicians from across the Midwest.

Along with the Quartet of Happiness, the concert will feature the Coe College Jazz Ensemble, directed by Assistant Professor of Music Steve Shanley.

Quartet of Happiness takes modern jazz and infuses it with a hefty dose of cheekiness and irreverent humor, wrapping it all up in the sort of theatrics reminiscent of Blue Man Group. The group has made it its mission to take jazz out of the ivory tower and make it accessible to a wide-ranging audience. Playing games, wearing costumes and engaging the audience with their antics, Quartet of Happiness performances are at times reminiscent of a cross between an improv comedy show and a theater of the bizarre. It's part jazz, part performance art, and all of it the child of insane wit.

The Coe College Jazz Ensemble will perform a world premiere of "Big Changes Ahead" composed by Eric Schmitz for the Coe group. The piece was inspired by his recent studies in Cuba. Schmitz serves as associate professor of music at the State University of New York - Oswego, and he is a 1995 graduate of Cedar Falls High School. The Coe Jazz Ensemble will also be playing "You Got It" by Frank Foster (written for the Count Basie Band) and the jazz classic "Body and Soul."

Jazz Summit

Held annually the last weekend in February, the Jazz Summit features appearances by leading jazz musicians. The Jazz Summit was founded in 1992 and continues a tradition of jazz festivals at Coe College that stretches back to the 1970s. The festival has grown from an afternoon event with an evening concert to a three-day festival encompassing clinics, workshops, a jazz band competition, an awards ceremony, and the Grand Finale concert featuring the jazz ensemble from Coe and performances by the guest artists.

Jazz Summit 2015 is sponsored by the Coe College Music Department, Friends of Music at Coe and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. The Jazz Summit administrators are Coe Professor of Music William Carson, Assistant Professor of Music Steve Shanley and Chelsea Dunn, class of 2010.

For more information, call 319-399-8600.

More about the Quartet of Happiness

The Quartet of Happiness has made it its mission to take jazz out of the ivory tower and make it accessible to a wide-ranging audience. Saxophonists Kelly Roberge and Rick Stone are the architects of the Quartet of Happiness. The pair met while each pursued a master's degree at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. Frustrated by the role of modern jazz as the province of intellectual wonkery, Roberge and Stone shared the inspiration to put the sense of pure, childish fun back in jazz.

The seeds of this quirky quartet were sown in 2003, while Roberge and Stone were on tour in Japan with a big band during the summer after their graduation from conservatory. They had been on tour for a solid month, playing the same compositions day after day. To keep themselves amused (and freak out the audience), they began to act out. They would storm the audience during a solo, and perform various other shenanigans to the chagrin of the demure Japanese bandleader. It wasn't long, though, before the bandleader succumbed to the effect that the pair's antics had on everyone and eventually embraced the behavior as part of the performance.

Armed with this new encouragement, Stone and Roberge began to take their ideas further, and thus the Quartet of Happiness was born. The band appeared in various incarnations before the more cohesive present lineup, which now includes one of the most formidable rhythm sections in Boston: bassist and fellow NEC alum Kendall Eddy, and drummer Austin McMahon. Now a veritable quartet of four kindred, goofy souls, the Quartet of Happiness has toured the Northeast and Midwest. They are equally at home playing in a downtown New York club and schools in the middle of Iowa. An important part of the band's ethos is reaching out to younger audiences in schools and clinics.

Some notables that members of the Quartet of Happiness have collectively performed and/or recorded with include Billy Hart, Bob Brookmeyer, George Garzone, the Either/Orchestra, Steve Lacy, David Liebman, Ira Sullivan, and the band Boston.

According to The Boston Herald, "Unlike 95 percent of living jazz players, Quartet of Happiness doesn't act like culture stopped evolving in 1959. The Boston-based modern jazz band is like Coltrane's quartet had Coltrane lived to embrace Monty Python, Japanese horror movies and the X-Men (and swap out McCoy Tyner for a second sax)." A review from Jazztimes notes, "Combining off-kilter jazz improvisation with comedic performance art, this Boston-based ensemble offers up a rollicking pastiche of musical skits and game-like exercises...the Quartet's impression of a radio tuning in stations at random is just plain funny."