MURFREESBORO — Internationally renowned jazz pianist and composer Kenny Werner will bring his artistic vision and advice to MTSU Thursday, March 26, as part of the university’s 24th annual Windham Lecture in Liberal Arts.
The free public event is set for 8 p.m. in Hinton Hall inside MTSU’s Wright Music Building. A searchable campus map with parking details is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParking14-15.
Werner, who was part of MTSU’s 2004 Jazz Festival, recently returned to his alma mater, Boston’s Berklee College of Music, to serve as artistic director of its Performance Wellness Institute. His 2014 CD release, “Coalition,” will be followed later this year by two new albums: a reunion of the Kenny Werner Trio with bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and drummer Ari Hoenig, and a duo CD with Brazilian singer/composer/guitarist Joyce Moreno.
The Brooklyn, New York, native began playing and performing as a child, first studying classical piano but quickly absorbing and playing anything he heard on the radio. At age 11, he recorded a single with a 15-piece orchestra and appeared on television playing stride piano. Enrolling at Berklee in 1970, his teacher, Madame Chaloff, encouraged his focus on music “conscious of its spiritual intent and essence.”
He then studied in Brazil with pianist Joao Assis Brasil, who provided another piece of the puzzle for Werner’s work that would lead to “Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within,” his 1996 book on distilling the emotional, spiritual and psychological aspects of an artist’s life. The text on music and improvisation remains widely read today and is required reading at many universities.
Werner has performed with and composed for many trios and other small group configurations in his career, but after he joined the Mel Lewis Orchestra — now the Village Vanguard Orchestra — in the mid-1980s as a pianist, he began composing and arranging for large ensembles such as jazz orchestras and full orchestras as well as wind ensembles, choirs and string quartets.
In addition to performing with jazz greats Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp, Rufus Reid, Jaki Byard, Mel Lewis, Bobby McFerrin and Marian McPartland, Werner continues his longtime collaborations with saxophonist Joe Lovano and harmonica player Toots Thielemans. He’s also served as pianist, arranger and musical director for Broadway legend Betty Buckley for more than two decades.
His 2004 MTSU performance received high praise from a reviewer at the Nashville Scene, who said the trio “ventured far beyond anything that local audiences have seen in years.”
In 2010, Werner received a 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship Award for his seminal work, “No Beginning No End,” an album released after his daughter’s death in a 2006 car accident.
The release featured performances by 70 musicians and had been commissioned before the tragedy, but Werner, with the help of his wife, Lorraine, was able to expand and refine the works into a collection called “a rare masterpiece” by AllAboutJazz.com.
Werner currently serves as an artist-in-residence at New York University and regularly teaches and presents musical clinics worldwide. You can learn more about him at his website, www.kennywerner.com, and watch a video of the Kenny Werner Trio from a performance at New York City’s historic Blue Note jazz club at http://youtu.be/AMB4YmHdD60.
MTSU’s Windham Lecture Series in Liberal Arts was established by William and Westy Windham through the MTSU Foundation.
Dr. William Windham was a member of the MTSU faculty from 1955 to 1989 and was chairman of the Department of History. His first wife, the late Westy Windham, earned a master's degree in sociology at MTSU and was the founder of the Great American Singalong. Since Westy Windham’s death, Windham and his current wife, Doris, have continued their sponsorship of the lecture series.
The inaugural Windham Lecture in 1990 featured Drs. Dan T. Carter of Emory University and Dewey W. Grantham of Vanderbilt University, who spoke on “The South and the Second Reconstruction.” Since then, the Windham Lectures have addressed topics spanning from American music to U.S. foreign policy and have included such speakers as musician Bela Fleck, filmmaker Rory Kennedy and retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
The March 26 lecture is sponsored by the MTSU College of Liberal Arts. For more information, please contact the College of Liberal Arts at 615-494-7628.