Local jazz groups to perform at Egyptian Theatre

By Jamie O'Toole, Columnist

DeKALB — Four local jazz groups will come together for the fourth year in a row to bring a night of jazz to DeKalb.

Beginning 7 p.m. Saturday, the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St., will present its annual “Jazz at the Egyptian” show.

The DeKalb High School Jazz Ensemble, Sycamore High School Jazz Ensemble, Jazz in Progress and the NIU Jazz Orchestra will perform, according to an Egyptian Theatre news release.

Four years ago, Reginald Thomas, director of the NIU Jazz Orchestra, and Alex Nerad, director of the Egyptian Theatre, planned the first “Jazz at the Egyptian,” Thomas said.

“[Nerad] wanted to create an event that allowed the NIU jazz program to interact with our local high schools,” he said.

DeKalb High School Director of Bands Steve Lundin, who has been involved with Jazz at the Egyptian since it began four years ago, said this year his students will perform songs including “Cotton Tail” and “Harlem Airshaft,” by Duke Ellington, “Eh’s Flat, Ah’s Flat Too,” by Charles Mingus, and “Us” by Thad Jones. 

Although the event happens every year, the songs change.

“It’s really grown into something that our students and families look forward to every year,” Lundin said. “It is exciting to share the stage with such fine musicians.”

This will be the fourth year DeKalb High School,NIU and Sycamore High School are participating in Jazz at the Egyptian. Jazz in Progress, a non-profit community jazz organization, has only participated in two previous shows, making this their third, Jeanine Holcomb, Egyptian Theatre’s marketing and communications director, said.

The Sycamore High School Jazz Ensemble will perform “Groove Merchant” by Jerome Richardson, “The Mooche” by Duke Ellington, “The Very Thought of You” by Ella Fitzgerald, “Fables of Faubus” by Charles Mingus and “Mambo Hot” by Victor López, Holcomb said.

Jazz in Progress will perform “Nostalgia in Times Square” by Charles Mingus, “Splanky” by Count Basie, “How High the Moon” by Ella Fitzgerald, “At Last” by Etta James and “The Dirty Boogie” by Brian Setzer & Orchestra, she said.

For the last performance of the night, the NIU Jazz Orchestra will play classics from various artists, including Thad Jones and Oliver Nelson Thomas said. They could also perform student arrangements.

The night will end with a finale performance from students from each ensemble.

“[It’s] a tradition that we started with the very first Jazz at the Egyptian concert that we always look forward to,” Thomas said.

The two high schools and NIU are within a 4-mile radius of each other and this night allows the groups to perform together on one stage. It’s interesting to see the progression of students in their jazz path, Holcomb said, because some students from the high schools go on to perform for NIU or Jazz in Progress.

“If these [high school] students are looking to have this in their future, they have a good sense before they even step foot on any campus,” Holcomb said.

The event is sponsored by the Mary E. Stevens Concert & Lecture Fund. Proceeds from the event will support local music programs at the high schools and NIU, the release states.

The event raised $800 for each school in 2018, Holcomb said.