UI Jazz Fest highlights rising talent in free online concerts

Jazz had its heyday in the 1920s; in the 2020s, the University of Idaho continues to keep its legacy alive with the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival.

Camille Thurman and säje will headline this year’s festival, performing Friday and Saturday. Evening concerts will be available free online.

5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26

The Grammy-nominated group säje (rhymes with “beige”) features Sara Gazarek, Amanda Taylor, Johnaye Kendrick and Erin Bentlage, performing a combination of standard jazz composition, original music and contemporary twists on favorites.

Individually the women, who live in different cities throughout the U.S., have plenty of accolades and experience. Gazarek has two Grammy nominations. Taylor is an award-winning arranger for vocal ensembles and composes for and teaches the Seattle Girls’ Choir. Kendrick performs original music as well as new interpretations of jazz and pop that she accompanies on harmonium, violin, viola and percussion. Bentlage began exploring music through dance and piano before becoming a jazz performer, arranger, composer and teacher.

The group debuted at the 2020 Jazz Education Network Conference in New Orleans and received its first Grammy nomination in November for its composition “Desert Song” in the Best Arrangement Instruments and Vocals category.

5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27

Thurman is a New York City native, vocalist, instrumentalist and composer. While she also plays bass, clarinet, flute and piccolo, her main instrument is the saxophone. Her saxophone playing has been compared to that of Joe Henderson and Dexter Gordon. Her vocals and scatting ability have been compared to Ella Fitzgerald and Betty Carter.

Thurman is the first woman in 30 years to tour with the Jazz at the Lincoln Orchestra and leads her own band, the Camille Thurman Quartet.

Each evening performance also will feature archival footage from the festival and performances by the Lionel Hampton School of Music Grammy Museum Affiliate Collective. People can register for links to attend concerts at www.uidaho.edu/class/jazzfest/concerts. The festival begins Feb. 25. A comprehensive list of events is available online.

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