Special guest Kris Johnson charms audience at UVU’s Jazz Jam Series

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The Grammy nominated trumpeter Kris Johnson was the guest of the new monthly music program, “Jazz Jam Series”, by UVU School Of The Arts. The talented jazz musician and member of the Count Basie Orchestra played at Center Stage on Oct. 15.

Kris Johnson is an award-winning jazz trumpeter, composer and educator. He has appeared on an extended list of albums including two Grammy-nominated releases: Tony Bennett’s “A Swingin’ Christmas” and Karen Clark Sheard’s “All In One”. Johnson is currently the Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Utah and encourages his students to live the spirit of this type of music, which has its roots in New Orleans.

The trumpeter didn’t come alone, he played with a pianist, a drummer and a string bass player. The first tune that lightened up the Center Stage was a cover by Miles Davis, “Composition Nr. 4”. About 150 jazz fans and music students listened to the former Grammy nominee and his talent on the trumpet. Johnson ended his set with an original song about a young man pondering his dreams while exploring Paris.

UVU music students joined the guest to create a big jazz combo with solos from the younger professionals. Improvising was the key to creating a joyful atmosphere to get right to the audience’s hearts. The audience supported the students with enthusiastic shouts and shared the fun the musicians had on the stage.

Brooks Hiatt, a saxophone performance major, explained why he joined the jam session.

“There is not a whole lot of these things that happen within a really close area. So anytime I get a chance to bust out my horn and play with people, I am all over it frankly. I have been really looking forward to play with my friends tonight and enjoy the mini concert.”

The music students were not the only ones excited to see the show. Jenecee Mathis, a math and chemical forensics major, said that she is a big fan of jazz music.

“I was in a band when I was in high school. So it was really a thing for me to go and watch music and appreciate a genre I am not listening to normally,” Mathis said. “I know Kris Johnson supposed to be amazing, so I am actually really excited.”

Providing a jam session experience for the community was the main reason why director and assistant professor of Jazz and Contemporary Performance Alex Heitlinger established the concept at UVU campus. He saw this program as an opportunity to invite students, local professionals and musicians to bring their talent together in a jazz combo for one evening.

“The chance to play with our guest Kris Johnson as one of the best jazz musicians in Utah County is a meaningful experience for the students because he is also a great mentor for them.”