The community is invited to a special evening of jazz at 7 p.m. on Friday, November 16 in the Robert L. Johnson Auditorium at Niles West High School, 5701 West Oakton, Skokie. This free concert will feature the acclaimed Northern Illinois University (NIU) Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Ronald Carter, as well as guest-soloist drummer Dennis Mackrel, who is also the Musical Director of the legendary Count Basie Orchestra. The Niles West Jazz Ensemble will also perform.
The NIU Jazz Ensemble was called “my band” by Dizzy Gillespie and has been rated as one of the top 10 graduate jazz programs in the country by U.S. News & World Report. NIU Jazz has received over 10 Outstanding Performance awards from Downbeat Magazine and has garnered international acclaim from performances at the International Association for Jazz Education conferences and festivals.
Drummer/composer/arranger Dennis Mackrel was a child prodigy who began playing the drums at age two. In 1983, he became the youngest member of the Count Basie Orchestra and the last drummer to be hired by Mr. Basie personally. Mackrel has performed and recorded with many notable musicians throughout his career. Sir George Shearing said of him, “If I ever have a record date coming up that calls for a drummer and Dennis is not available, I’ll postpone the session. He’s that good.” Mackrel became the leader of the Count Basie Orchestra in 2010.