Arts & Humanities

Legendary Jazz Organist Coming to Utah State University

Dr. Lonnie Smith, a jazz organist, is the second performer in USU's Wassermann Festival. He performs Monday, Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m., Morgan Theatre, Chase Fine Arts Center.

A jazz world “legend” is coming to Utah State University’s Wassermann Festival, and with the appearance of Dr. Lonnie Smith on jazz organ Wassermann Director Dennis Hirst continues to expand the artistic boundaries of the 2015-16 season. Two local musicians, Corey Christiansen and Jay Lawrence, join Smith to form a combo for the evening’s concert. Biographical material describes Smith as an authentic master and guru of the Hammond B-3 organ.

Smith performs Monday, Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m., in a new venue for the festival, the Morgan Theatre in the Chase Fine Arts Center on USU’s Logan campus.

Reserved seating tickets are $24 for adults, $20 for USU faculty and staff and students ages 8 and older can purchase a $12 ticket. Tickets can be purchased at the Caine College of the Arts Box Office located in room L101 in the Chase Fine Arts center or online via a link on the Wassermann website (http://www.usu.edu/wassermann/). More information on the artists is also available at the Wassermann website.

“Most of our concerts are held in the beautiful Caine Performance Hall,” Hirst said. “That hall is fantastic for certain things. But in this situation where we will have amplified music, we can use the extra space that the Morgan Theatre provides to maximize the performance experience for the artists as well as the listening experience for the audience.”

This is the first jazz organ event at the Wassermann, but it isn’t the first jazz concert. Bill Mays was a featured jazz pianist in 2010 at the Wassermann. The concert was very successful and Hirst looked for another opportunity to feature jazz again. When he approached Christiansen, head of USU’s guitar program, about possibilities, Christiansen immediately mentioned Smith. Hirst also consulted Jon Gudmundson, head of jazz studies in USU’s Music Department, and when Smith’s name was mentioned, he responded with “he’s a legend.”

With the criteria of presenting jazz musicians at the same level of accomplishment as the Wassermann’s artists in the classical world, Hirst knew he had his next jazz artist in Smith.

A jazz performance allows audiences to “see creativity in its most pure, natural form,” Hirst said. The evening’s program will be set after the musicians meet.

“These three — Dr. Lonnie Smith, Corey Christiansen and Jay Lawrence — are masters of what they do, Hirst said. “They don’t work with each other on a regular basis, but that’s a perfect creative mix. The event itself will be an experience created by what each musician brings to the moment. Add the audience response and the creative experience snowballs.”

Hirst said Smith is an unparalleled musician, composer, performer and recording artist. He is featured on more than 70 albums and has recorded and performed with a virtual “Who’s Who” of the greatest jazz, blues and R&B giants in the industry. “Jazz Times” magazine describes him as “a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a turban!” His career spans more than five decades.

“Dr. Lonnie Smith is a legend not only in the jazz organ world but in the jazz community,” Christiansen said. “He is an icon at this point. He is forward thinking, his recent offerings as a recording and concert artist are socially relevant and compelling. He is at the top of his game.”

Christiansen and Lawrence are both Utah-based musicians and well known in the music industry. Christiansen, in addition to heading USU’s guitar program, has played and taught in almost every type of situation around the globe for the last decade.

Lawrence, a distinguished drummer, ethnic and orchestral percussionist, has a diverse career as a performing and recording artist. He has performed with numerous jazz artists, has recorded multiple film scores and has served as president of the Salt Lake City Jazz Society and as chief executive officer of Jazz Arts of the Mountain West.

For information on the concert or any of the Wassermann Festival events, contact Hirst at dennis.hirst@usu.edu.

Relates links:

Writer: Patrick Williams, 435-797-1354, patrick.williams@usu.edu

Contact: Dennis Hirst, 435-797-3257, dennis.hirst@usu.edu

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