"An Afternoon with the Oswego Jazz Project" will feature the SUNY Oswego faculty combo with special guest trumpeter Tom Manuel at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 8, in Sheldon Hall ballroom.

Founded by music faculty members Robert Auler on piano, Eric Schmitz on drums and Trevor Jorgensen on saxophone, the group -- with newer faculty member Kyle Vock now on bass -- serves as musical ambassadors for SUNY Oswego by educating as well as entertaining. In addition to their musical mastery, the group is known for a commitment to spontaneity and innovative improvisation.

"In jazz combos, many different groupings of musicians are possible," Auler explained. "While there is almost always a drummer and a bass player, other instrumentation can vary -- to play chords, a pianist is the most common, but a guitar player may be possible. Then, the melodic material (called the 'head') and a lot of the improvisation is done by lead instruments -- the saxophone and the trumpet are the most common."

While Jorgensen is traditionally the Oswego Jazz Project lead player, "it's very appropriate, exciting and honestly a lot of fun to bring in a second lead instrument," Auler said. "It expands the creative possibilities of what we can do; it allows us to vary what instrument plays which head, bringing freshness to the sound during the concert; on some tunes, both will solo; on some tunes we'll choose one."  

At the Focus on Faculty April 8 concert, audiences also can expect OJP members to provide context and commentary about the tunes in concert while demonstrating an informal, immediate approach to the music, Auler noted.

The group has released two albums: the self-titled "Oswego Jazz Project" in 2007, followed by "And the Time is Now" the following year. 

Musical partnership

Manuel is the president and founder of the Jazz Loft, an extensive museum, performance venue and education space. "Last March, OJP performed there, and Tom joined us for a couple tunes," Auler recalled. "We had such a blast, we'll be teaming up with him in Oswego on April 8, then we'll follow him downstate to repeat the same program at the Jazz Loft April 10."

OJP's trip to Long Island also will include meeting with high school students at Maspeth High School in Queens, Celia Cruz High School in the Bronx, the famed School of Rock in Port Jefferson and Harborfields High School on Long Island.

Manuel is a faculty member at Stony Brook University, where he runs the pre-college Young Artist Program in jazz, and has taught at multiple Long Island colleges. Manuel's desire to give back has led to establishing music programs for underprivileged children in Haiti and Liberia.

He has recorded several albums and been featured with his big band ensemble on radio and television. Manuel's accomplishments have been cited by The New York Times, Downbeat Magazine, Newsday, Jazz Inside Magazine and Jazz Ed Magazine. 

"If we play a tune written and made famous by, say, Miles Davis (trumpet), it would be historically appropriate to feature Tom Manuel's trumpet there rather than Trevor's saxophone," Auler noted.

Tickets cost $8 ($5 for SUNY Oswego students with ID), available at the door 30 minutes before performance. For those attending the conference, parking is free in employee lots adjacent to and across the street from Sheldon Hall on Washington Boulevard.

For more information, call 315-312-2130.