Wilde Lake musicians ready to jazz things up

The Baltimore Sun

Wilde Lake High School senior Eliza Fishbein describes herself as "excited" and "giddy" about the school jazz band's scheduled performances this weekend with renowned trombonist Slide Hampton. "It's just so cool that no matter what level you're playing at, [jazz musicians] are willing to encourage you," she said.

Hampton, who has made music with some of the best-known names in jazz -- including Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Maynard Ferguson and others -- seems genuinely enthusiastic about his weekend collaborators, as well.

"One thing you can usually count on from young musicians is they will have plenty of energy," Hampton said by phone from his New Jersey home. "That makes up for their inexperience. I was young once, and I remember how it was. My claim to fame was that I had energy."

Hampton will be in Columbia tomorrow and Sunday for two concerts that will include a set by the jazz band, a set with Hampton backed up by local professionals and one song with Hampton and the students.

Money raised by the concerts will support the school's music program.

This is the third year the Wilde Lake High School band has played with a well-known professional. The events have been arranged by the Band Boosters under the guidance of Jill Lapides, who has made connections in the jazz community while her sons, Alex Brown and Zach Brown, have pursued their interest in the music.

Past performances with Latin flutist Dave Valentine and Canadian musicians Jane Bunnett and her husband, Larry Cramer, proved to be popular with audiences and with the young musicians.

"It is an opportunity for our teenaged kids to be able to see, hear and perform with some of these just amazing jazz legends," said Lew Dutrow, the band director. "They're all just pumped up."

According to his official biography, Hampton started his career touring the Midwest with his family's band. (They are the ones who gave young Locksley Wellington Hampton his instrument and the nickname "Slide.")

As an adult, he played with a number of well-known jazz artists and led his own small groups. He lived and played in Europe for nearly a decade before returning to the United States in 1977 and has taught master classes at numerous universities.

The two-time Grammy winner was named musical director of the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band in 2004, and he continues to tour with a group of Brazilian musicians with whom he recorded a compact disc of compositions by Antonio Carlos Jobim.

This weekend, Hampton's band will include Alex Brown, a Wilde Lake graduate and student at the New England Conservatory of Music, Annapolis drummer Joe McCarthy and bass player Pepe Gonzalez of Washington.

Hampton said his portion of the concert will include a tribute to the late trombonist J.J. Johnson, with Johnson's songs "Fatback" and "Lament." Hampton also plans to play a composition by Jobim.

Hampton said he is encouraged by what he sees as the growing popularity of jazz, particularly in school and college programs. "Jazz seems to be having a kind of rebirth now," he said. "People are buying records of all kinds now."

He also said jazz survives because "it's an extension of what people feel. People usually become jazz musicians because they want to express themselves through music."

Zach Brown, an 11th-grade bass player, said he thinks jazz should appeal to a wide audience. "I feel like jazz is a very broad term," he said. "There are so many different aspects of it. Everyone could find something [to like]."

He said having Hampton play is "a very unique opportunity. We should feel really special we get to have such people come to our school and work with us."

Hampton said he has several messages he tries to share with young people. One is to avoid drinking and smoking, as his parents taught him to do. Another is to realize that "pursuing something like music is a real opportunity to be a part of something that actually brings a lot of good energy into society and to the whole planet."

He said there are a lot of chances to succeed in music, from playing to writing to teaching, "and it doesn't depend on whether you have a name or not, it depends on how good you are at what you do."

Dutrow said it is valuable for the students to spend time with well-known musicians in person rather than watching them in a club or on a video.

"To stand on the same stage, hear them talk about stuff like regular people, it takes the veil down a little bit," he said. "They can see a little bit more of what these guys are like and what they do when they are not standing behind their horn."

Fishbein, who plays baritone saxophone, said she is looking forward to that interaction. "I think the thing I am most interested to talk to him about is to figure out where he got all of his drive from," she said, "And what it was like to play with all those jazz musicians and live that lifestyle. ... He seems like a nice guy you can talk to."

Slide Hampton and the Wilde Lake Jazz Band will perform at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Jim Rouse Theatre, 5460 Trumpeter Road, Columbia. Tickets are $20 at the door or $15 in advance from www.instant seats.com/events/jimrousetheater.

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