Most of the great musical forms began in Europe: choral music in the medieval monasteries, opera in the 1600s, and classical orchestra in the 1700s with Haydn and Mozart. But there’s one type of music that America can claim as its own indigenous creation: jazz. Starting in New Orleans and spreading to riverboats and eventually to Chicago, jazz music in the '20s used its syncopated rhythms and brassy irreverence to express the exuberance of a burgeoning United States. From Louis Armstrong in the '20s to Glenn Miller in the '40s, American jazz and swing music grew from a shady, irreverent melodic innovation into a distinctive, much admired genre that is now at the vanguard of favorites for Americans and Europeans alike. Because of the great popularity of jazz, The Kingwood Pops Orchestra is glad to use it as the theme for its upcoming concert, The Pops Goes Jazzy. On May 18 and 19, the Pops will present a musical smorgasbord of the tastiest jazz selections. “A Salute to the Big Bands” touches on a number of the main big bands from the '40s, while a Duke Ellington medley brings to life some of his slightly more recent hits, such as “Mood Indigo” and “Sentimental Lady.” Changing the mood slightly, Pops pianist Barbie Butler solos on Gershwin’s American music landmark, “Rhapsody in Blue.” Although Gershwin and Glenn Miller both passed away prematurely without ever living to see age 40, both left a lasting, formative impression on 20th-century American music. Another selection, “Crazy for You,” presents more of the melodies of brothers Ira and George Gershwin. In a tip of the hat to Louis Armstrong, the Pops will also play “Satchmo,” a medley of tunes associated with Armstrong’s remarkable career as a trumpet player. Rising from the poverty of his childhood in New Orleans, Armstrong played with Fletcher Henderson’s band, among others, and helped forge the importance of improvisational solos in jazz. His nickname, “Satchmo,” is a shortened form of satchelmouth, an epithet that, along with “Dippermouth,” he gained for his large trumpet player’s mouth. Later in the Pops program, a flute trio of Arlette Jeffries, Ruth Clark and Gina Ellis will play Claude Bolling’s much more recent “Jazz Suite for Flute and Piano.” Unlike most Pops concerts, this concert will feature a professional guest artist. The orchestra is proud to have guest saxophonist Brad Leali joining the group for this concert. A native of Colorado, Leali graduated from the well-known jazz program at North Texas State University and went on to play in the Harry Connick, Jr. band as well as with the Count Basie Orchestra. In the 1990s, he garnered a Grammy nomination for his solos with the Count Basie group. Leali is currently director of jazz studies at Texas Tech University. He and several guest rhythm section members will play a number of selections during the second half of the concert. The Kingwood Pops Goes Jazzy concerts will take place on Friday and Saturday, May 18 and 19, at the Nathaniel Center in Kingwood. Reserved table seats are on sale at the Kingwood H-E-B store and at the door for $20. Some complimentary general admission seats will also be available on a first come, first served basis the nights of the concert. No tickets are necessary for the general admission seating, but the seats go quickly. The Pops members and conductor Gary Liebst extend a cordial invitation for all local residents to join the orchestra for an evening of cool jazz and warm nostalgia. The Kingwood Pops Orchestra enjoys the generous support of Kingwood College and the Houston Cultural Arts Council. Photo: The Kingwood Pops Orchestra will entertain the community with an amazing lineup of jazz favorites on May 18 and 19 at the Nathaniel Center.

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