Arts & Humanities

Big Bands Concert Features Special Guest Phillip Whack

Guest saxophonist Phillip Which joins the USU Big Bands for a concert Wednesday, Nov. 16. He will perform with both the USU Jazz Ensemble and the USU Jazz Orchestra. Concert time is 7:30 p.m. at the Morgan Theatre in the Chase Fine Arts Center, Logan campus.

The USU Big Bands present a diverse program featuring guest tenor saxophonist Phillip Whack Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Morgan Theatre in the Chase Fine Arts Center on the Utah State University Logan campus.

A South Carolina native, Whack is one of the most in-demand musicians of his generation, according to USU’s John Gudmundson. He took up the saxophone at the age of 11. Whack attended Brevard College where he studied woodwinds with David Kirby as well as Gudmundson, now director of jazz studies at USU. Whack has recorded and shared the stage with musicians and groups that include The Glenn Miller Orchestra, The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, Lenny Kravitz and more.

“We are excited to feature Phillip Whack on two of our selections,” said Greg Wheeler, assistant professor in the Caine College of the Arts. “The Jazz Ensembles will open the evening with the Michael Abene arrangement of Horace Silver’s Sister Sadie. This aggressive arrangement features many of our students as soloists.”

Next, Whack will play on Bill Evan’s Waltz for Debby. This arrangement was awarded a Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement in 1988. Along with Whack, guitarist Hunter Bergman and bassist Zach Tubbs are featured on the piece.

“Also included in our set is the selection that kick started the career of Ella Fitzgerald, called A Tisket A Tasket,” Wheeler said. “As originally performed by Ella Fitzgerald and the Chick Webb Orchestra in 1938, this selection features our own guest vocalist Dani Armour.”

The USU Jazz Orchestra has a “mostly Mintzer” concert on tap, with three of the Grammy Award-winning saxophonist’s arrangements on the program, Gudmundson said.

“The performance includes Ellis Island, Bob Mintzer’s culture-enriching tribute to that important gateway for so many Americans,” Gudmundson said. “Following will be Mintzer’s composition representing the blips and beeps of the machine we all love to hate — the Computer, and his gorgeous ballad Truth will feature Phillip Whack.

“Vocalist Carolee Beck will sing to Chuck Dotas’ arrangement of This Can’t be Love, and guest saxophonist Phillip Whack will bring the house down with turns on Oliver Nelson’s Hoe Down and Bob Berg’s infectious shuffle Friday Night at the Cadillac Club.”

“This has been a very special couple of weeks for me,” Gudmundson said. “Last week, my former student Nate Mensink came to visit us to perform with the USU Wind Orchestra and teach. Now another former student, Phillip Whack, will be visiting to join our big bands on stage, teach and lead a jam session. It is so rewarding to see and hear my former students, see how far they have come in their artistry and have them share their knowledge and love for music with the next generation of students at USU. Without a doubt, it makes all the long hours of teaching worth every minute. I have the best job in the world!”

Tickets are $10 adults, $8 youth and seniors, $5 USU faculty and staff and free for USU students with ID. For more information, visit the CCA Box Office in room L101 of the Chase Fine Arts Center, call 435-797-8022 or see the Caine College’s website.

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Writer and Contact: Whitney Schulte, 435-797-9203,

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