Jazz Fest XXXIX: Ives tribute and alumni showcase
For local jazz fans, the Jazz Fest XXXIX concert on Jan. 31, at the Weidner Center was a concert for the ages. More than 50 all-star alumni musicians from across the country returned for a tribute to retired music professor Lovell Ives, who founded the festival and UW-Green Bay’s jazz program in the late 1960s.
Many of the alumni now perform professionally, many are educators and some do both. Representative was the night’s dazzling clarinet soloist, Kevin Van Ess ’84, who teaches instrumental music in the Green Bay Public School System; he also heads his own band, “Kevin Van Ess and the Talk of the Town.” Several of the returning players took time to reflect on Ives’s influence at a pre-show rehearsal (see video).
Ives returned to familiar territory when he directed big-band sets during the concert. The all-star band brought the house down, playing mostly songs Ives arranged himself.
The Green Bay Press-Gazette called JazzFext XXXIX a “show for the ages.” Not bad for a group of musicians who rehearsed just once together before the epic all-star show.
A Tribute to Prof. Lovell Ives
’82, Air Force Academy Jazz Band
Well, this is really exciting. I know many of the individuals here and the one common thread is that we’ve all been students of Lovell Ives. He was, of course, the jazz band director here for many years. He actually recruited me when I was in high school to come to the college. I was in a music camp. And I became interested in studying with him. He was an excellent mentor and teacher. In fact, the whole faculty at UWGB was real supportive and involved in helping me grow as a young musician.
Lovell actually helped me find some employment, directed me to some other colleges. The musical stuff I learned from him helped me win a national audition with the Air Force Academy Band and I’ve been there ever since.
’99, Milwaukee-area school band director
He told me first of all about music, a lot about practicing, how to practice, a lot about jazz. And he also believed in his students, as well. And he treated his students equally with respect.
Lovell Ives was a very important person in my life as a teacher and as a person.
’86, Ridgefield Elementary School Music Teacher
Lovell, his love of music was always amazing. He did give us a nice variety of things to work from. So it wasn’t always the same music all the time. We had three jazz bands, so we had a lot of people above us that were strong musicians that we were able to deal with all the time, listen to and learn from. And he pushed us. You know, at the time, you’re a little tired, ‘cuz it’s late at night when you’re practicing. But when you get to those concerts you’re kind of proud of your accomplishments when you get there.
Runs Bay City Swing band
He was just a fantastic teacher. I first saw him when I was a high school student. I would go out to the UWGB concerts like at the Deckner Center, and I actually as a senior in high school, I would come over and rehearse with the second jazz band, which he conducted at the time. That was my introduction to him and that made up my decision to go to UWGB.
Student ’72-’75, owns Instrumental Music in Green Bay
I think there’s a tremendous energy that comes out of playing his charts and just listening, you can just hear his stereotype arrangements, I guess, that worked real well.
It was an outstanding opportunity to play for a wonderful, talented man. And he did tremendous arrangements. They were very playable, whereas you play some shows, you pull the charts out and you gotta work over and over. He knew how to write so that all of us could play.
’71, Ashwaubenon High School band director
Lovell writes great swing arrangements. Some of those that you hear like his “Old Man River.” He’s just an incredibly good writer. The strength of that also was that he could write for the band. If you had strong saxes he’d write things for the saxophones, or he’d write things for the trumpet players. He always wrote arrangements that kind of brought out the talents of the bands that he had. That’s one of the reasons we always had good groups, I think.
’81 Air Force Academy Jazz Band
I mean, he was an accomplished, working musician and arranger, which is kind of unique. He had a tremendous amount of experience prior to his teaching, and he brought that and shared that with all of his students. So, you know what you were getting was something that money couldn’t buy. It was real world experience and expertise.
Prof. Emeritus Lovell Ives was a member of the UW-Green Bay music faculty from 1969 until his retirement in 1997.
A long-time director of jazz studies, he was a founder of the annual UW-Green Bay JazzFest, director of the UW-Green Bay Jazz Ensemble, performer on trumpet in venues ranging from symphony orchestras to Dixieland jazz groups, leader of the Green Bay Packers Band, and the Lovell Ives Orchestra, arranger of music, activist in professional music organizations and teacher and mentor to hundreds of students, many of whom went on to careers in music.
Video music by: Kevin MacLeod, www.incompetech.com