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World renowned Fairfield County jazz musician to lead fall benefit concert in Greenwich

By Backcountry Jazz


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Bennie Wallace and students at June 2010 benefit education classes
On Saturday, November 20, at 7:30p.m. in St. Bede’s Chapel in Greenwich, renowned saxophonist Bennie Wallace will lead an eight-member jazz band in The Backcountry Jazz Fall Concert. The band will perform well-loved Duke Ellington standards and other selections from the American songbook. The proceeds from the concert go to the non-profit organization, Backcountry Jazz, which funds music education and outreach programs in Bridgeport public schools with artists who teach and perform at the highest level of excellence.

Bennie Wallace, Backcountry Jazz’s founder and music director, has been a tenor saxophonist, composer, and recording artist for over 30 years. He has released over 20 jazz recordings, won five DownBeat Magazine awards and numerous recording awards, and has performed and recorded with many jazz greats, including Elvin Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Dr. John, Chick Corea, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Bennie is also the composer for Oscar-nominated films. His credits include Bull Durham, Paul Newman’s Blaze, and White Men Can’t Jump, among others. “Bennie is a quiet treasure,” explains Advisory Board member Easy Kelsey Merrow. “He’s world-renowned and his enthusiasm for the art form is contagious.”

Six other musicians and jazz vocalist Hilary Gardner will join Bennie Wallace on stage. The concert will bring together musicians who have worked with legends such as Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins and Woody Herman, and younger musicians at the beginning of their careers – bass player David Wong is a 2004 Juilliard graduate and pianist Donald Vega won the 2010 Great American Jazz Piano Competition.

“I’m excited about this group in St. Bede’s intimate setting,” Mr. Wallace explains. “This will be the first Greenwich appearances for bass clarinet and baritone saxophone Joe Temperley and trumpeter Terell Stafford. Jerry Dodgion on alto sax is returning to Backcountry Jazz with this concert, and we’ll also have young award-winners Donald Vega and David Wong. Rounding us out will be the great Victor Lewis on drums and Hilary Gardner, best known for her recent performances as featured vocalist in Twyla Tharp’s Broadway musical, Come Fly Away, which featured the music of Frank Sinatra.”

Backcountry Jazz, the non-profit organization which Mr. Wallace founded in 2007, has held free jazz concerts, workshops and master classes for Bridgeport public school students and music teachers, and has provided five scholarships for continuing-education music studies for Bridgeport teachers. Tania Kelley, the Performing Arts Department Director at the Bridgeport Public Schools, told audiences at a past Backcountry Jazz benefit, “Before Backcountry Jazz came to Bridgeport, many of these kids had heard only rap. When the musicians began to play, you could see the eyes light up and the heads move to the rhythm.” She notes that Bennie Wallace’s “passion and enthusiasm for his art and love of youth are evident.”

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Pianist Donald Vega, Backcountry Jazz June 2010 benefit
St. Bede’s Chapel is on the campus of the Westchester Fairfield Hebrew Academy in Greenwich. Completed in 1909, the Chapel was designed by the architectural firm of Carrere and Hastings, which also designed the New York Public Library, the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre and the Frick Collection building in New York. In 2009 the WFHA, together with local benefactors and arts organizations, revived the historic chapel as a public performance venue. “It is known to have wonderful acoustics, and its stunning interior and spectacular stained glass windows will provide an extraordinary setting for the concert,” says Mr. Wallace. “We hope the St. Bede’s Chapel can become a popular public performance space in the area.”

St. Bede’s Chapel is located on the campus of Westchester Fairfield Hebrew Academy at 270 Lake Avenue. The campus is accessible from both I-95 and Merritt/Hutchinson Parkways. Parking will be available on the site. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Patrons received preferred seating with tickets available at $5,000, $2,500, $1,000, $500 and $250 levels. General admission tickets are $100. All tickets should be purchased in advance of the concert by contacting Backcountry Jazz at 203-836-9454 or jeanette@backcountryjazz.org.

Wine, donated by Sonoma County’s Coturri Vineyards, and dessert will be served after the concert.




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