URI Big Band to play at Newport Jazz Festival—again!

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KINGSTON, R.I., Feb. 24, 2016 – University of Rhode Island’s Big Band is hitting a high note—again.

For the fourth year in a row, the URI Big Band has been invited to play at the Newport Jazz Festival, one of the most prestigious jazz concerts in the world.

The 19-member band will play a 45-minute set at noon July 29 at Fort Adams State Park, overlooking Narragansett Bay in Newport.

“We’re thrilled to be part of the festival again,” says Joe Parillo, chair of URI’s music department and a piano player. “It’s a coup for URI and the music program to be on an international stage in front of tens of thousands of people.”

Jared Sims, who teaches sax at URI and leads the big band, says the invitation puts URI’s jazz studies program on the map as one of the best in the country, maybe the best. The jazz studies program at URI is about a decade old.

“It’s an honor for our program to be performing, and perhaps even more of an honor that they’ve asked us to return,” says Sims. “It’s a really big deal for URI.”

This will be the fourth year URI’s band has appeared at the festival, but the fifth performance. Last year, the entire band performed, and 11 of those musicians were featured in the horn section of festival headliner and British musician Jamie Cullum.

Both undergraduate and graduate students are in the URI band. Musicians auditioned for the band during a blind audition in September. URI’s performance at the festival over the years has been so good no auditions were necessary, he says.

“That’s how well-respected our jazz band is,” he says. “It’s impressive.”

This year’s performance will also feature two vocalists: Jack Thomas, a junior from Duxbury, Mass., and Sandy Lewanika, a graduate student from Jackson, Miss. They will sing jazz tunes from the American songbook.

The band members are: Taylor Allen, alto saxophone, Nashua, N.H.; Christopher Botelho, baritone saxophone, Portsmouth, R.I.; Michael Grenier, tenor saxophone, North Kingstown; Andrew Hellwig, alto saxophone, Mashpee, Mass.; Collin Larkin, tenor saxophone, Stonington, Conn.; Nick Casey, trombone, West Greenwich; Alyssa Oates, trombone, West Warwick; Jeffrey Kimmerlein, trombone, Wakefield; Jack Armstrong, trombone, Barrington; William Chilton, trumpet, Newport; Manny Morales, trumpet, Wakefield; Michael Pollart, trumpet, Kingston; Jason Taylor, trumpet, Cranston; Keaton Nelson, guitar, West Warwick; James Himmelmann, piano, Manorville, N.Y.; Evan Magno, bass, Cranston; and Nicolas Motroni, drums, West Warwick.

A saxophonist from Boston, co-director Sims has toured in the United States, Europe, South America, India and the Middle East. He has played live with Bob Brookmeyer, Stefon Harris, Han Bennink, Cecil McBee and Bob Moses, as well as with the orchestras of Artie Shaw and Jimmy Dorsey. He has also been on recordings with Antonio Sanchez, Anat Cohen and Dave Liebman.

He has performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival, Flint Jazz Festival in Michigan, Beantown Jazz Festival in Boston, Quito Jazz Festival in Ecuador, and Northsea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands.

Sims has also appeared on more than 35 different recordings. His newest jazz recording, The New Stablemates, was released in 2012 and features bassist Dave Zinno and drummer Steve Langone. Both Langone and Zinno teach in URI’s music department.

Tickets can be purchased online at Newport Jazz Festival

To listen to the band