Vermont Jazz Center hosts 10th Big Band Gala and Dance, featuring Houston Person

BRATTLEBORO — The Vermont Jazz Center Big Band hosts its 10th annual Big Band Gala and Dance on Friday, Dec. 7, at 8 p.m. To mark this milestone, the VJC Big Band will perform with the legendary saxophonist Houston Person, and vocalists Rebecca Holtz and Mark Anagnostopulos.

The VJC is at 74 Cotton Mill Hill, Brattleboro. Tickets are $25 for general admission and $28 for reserved tables, and include a dessert buffet.

Person is renowned for his long tenure with the great singer Etta Jones. He also is recognized for his masterful recorded work with Horace Silver, Charles Brown, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Lou Rawls, and Lena Horne. Person's recorded output as a leader includes 75 dates with such heavy hitters as Ron Carter, Joey DeFrancesco, Russell Malone, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton, and Paul Chambers.

Person's sound is big and breathy, tasteful and polished. He is an obvious choice as a foil for vocalists because he knows exactly the perfect moment to insert a burnished line; his timing is impeccable and his tone gorgeous.

Asked in a published interview whether he enjoys performing for dances, Person said, “The music that I perform was originally conceived of as music for dancing. I've been playing dances all my life, so when I see dancers responding to my notes with their own movements it gives me great pleasure and encourages me to dig deeper. I'd rather play a dance than a concert venue.”

The Vermont Jazz Center Big Band is an 18-piece ensemble that rehearses for and performs one or two concerts a year.

The Vermont Jazz Center is an internationally recognized institution providing jazz education, programming and outreach. Now in its 37th year, it was founded by the legendary guitarist Attila Zoller, and is run by pianist Eugene Uman.

The VJC features a summer jazz workshop, a monthly concert series, Wednesday night jam sessions, and frequent collaborations with area schools, arts organizations and businesses.

The VJC's organizers and musicians agree it's hard to believe that the big band has been in existence now for a decade, and credit VJC board member and big band organizer Sherm Fox for its success, as he stays in contact with the musicians, arranges rehearsals, and curates the organization's extensive library.

Moreover, the ensemble members deserve tremendous credit for their abilities, musicality and their commitment of time and talent to the Jazz Center, organizers say.

VJC Big Band members include the trumpet section of Donald Anderson, Rick Anderson, Johnny Jones, and Charlie Schneeweis; the saxophone section of Bill Ballard, Sherm Fox, Bob Stabach, Larry Tutt, and Michael Zsoldos; the trombone section of Brian Bender, Dan DeWalt, Rob Skrocki and Bob Thies; and the rhythm section of Julian Gerstin (percussion), Draa Hobbs (guitar), George Kaye (bass), Steve Rice (drums), and Eugene Uman (piano and director).

For this show, the VJC will feature many of the strong soloists from within the group as well as two vocalists who have been mentored for many years by the illustrious singer Sheila Jordan.

Anagnostopulos is a VJC board member and can also be found with the local group called Butterfly Swing.

Holtz, a Smith College senior, has performed since she was a girl. She recently presented a concert at the Greenfield Arts Block with Samirah Evans' “Women in Jazz” series.

To buy tickets, visit, In the Moment Record Store in downtown Brattleboro, or call the VJC ticket line, 802-254-9088, ext. 1. You can also buy general admission tickets at the door.

Local high school students wishing admission can take advantage of a subsidized admission discount.

This concert is handicapped accessible, but if you know someone in your party will require the use of an elevator, please call ahead.

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