WEST NEWBURY — Music is in the air this month as Pentucket’s Middle and High School performing artists take center stage to offer three free performances for the public.
On Friday, May 17, special guest performer Ben Kono joins Pentucket’s award-winning Jazz Combo at the spring session of Café Jazz.
Held in the high school cafeteria at 7 p.m., the evening also features the high school Blues Ensemble and Big Band and the Middle School Jazz Band, playing tunes by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Thad Jones, Sonny Rollins and Johnny Griffin. Pentucket senior Emma Jones will offer a special encore performance of Nina Simone’s “Four Women” — the song she performed at the recent “Civil to Civil” event at the high school last month.
A world-class musician, Kono has established himself as one of the most sought-after woodwind players on Broadway and throughout the New York City Jazz scene. He has performed in venues from Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall to Birdland and Le Poisson Rouge and works with a wide variety of talent, such as Hugh Jackman and Liza Minnelli.
“I met Ben over a decade ago when he began playing in my New York City jazz orchestra Sound Assembly,” said Pentucket’s director of jazz, David Schumacher. When looking for a progressive tune to include in the musical set the Jazz Combo performed during the Berklee College High School Jazz Festival this winter, Schumacher chose the song “Rice,” a favorite of his from Kono’s debut album.
The combo took top honors at the Berklee festival this year and Schumacher’s students enjoyed the tune so much he decided to bring Kono to the district as a special treat to top off a very successful year for the Pentucket jazz program.
“It will be a thrill for our students to share the stage with Ben performing ‘Rice’ and several other tunes from their set.” Earlier in the afternoon, Kono plans to conduct jazz clinics for all jazz students at the high school.