Bruce Henry returns to Fillmore Central to work with students next week. He and his fellow musicians will be performing a concert for the community on Friday evening, May 3, at Wheeler's Bar and Grill in Harmony.  SUBMITTED PHOTO
Bruce Henry returns to Fillmore Central to work with students next week. He and his fellow musicians will be performing a concert for the community on Friday evening, May 3, at Wheeler's Bar and Grill in Harmony. SUBMITTED PHOTO
As the guest artists of Fillmore Central High School's jazz artist-in-residence this year, the Bruce Henry Sextet will again be educating and performing with Fillmore Central students for their tenth annual Big Band Bash on May 3-4. The ensemble this year will also include featured vocalist Debbie Duncan.

Henry, who is a vocalist as well, will be returning with the same band members as when they visited in 2009: Daryl Boudreaux, percussion; Bryan Nichols, piano; Chris Bates, bass; Jay Epstein, drums; and Peter Vircks, saxophone.

These in-demand professional artists will be holding a general admission concert for the public on Friday, May 3, at 7 p.m. at Wheeler's Bar and Grill in Harmony. Tickets can be purchased for $10 at the door. Proceeds from the concert will go toward defraying the cost of bringing and hosting the guest artists.

"To bring these kind of musicians in for that kind of price is great," shared Fillmore Central Band Director Lane Powell. "You would normally pay $40 or more per head at the places they perform at in the cities."

Powell is also eager for the learning opportunity his students will have with the artists. "These guys are phenomenal educators," he shared, explaining that jazz band members will have rehearsal and sectional time with the guest artists on Friday.

The artists

According to his website, "Bruce A. Henry is a vocalist, performer and educator extraordinaire. Henry's eclectic vocal style has been influenced by legends such as John Coltrane, Leon Thomas, Gil Scott Heron, Al Jarreau, Nina Simone and Marvin Gaye. Bruce possesses a three-octave range, a pure voice with versatility few can match. Bruce's music has taken him to five continents and he has recorded for Disney, HBO and numerous national ad campaigns."

He will be joined by Duncan, who is considered the upper Midwest's "best-kept-musical secret." She was raised in Detroit by jazz-loving parents and the Motown atmosphere. According to her website, "She soon got noticed by the rest of the Twin Cities music community and began working extensively with her own trio. Composed of master pianist Don Stille, bassist Gary Raynor (formerly in Sammy Davis, Jr.'s trio) and Phil Hey (one of the finest bop drummers in the Midwest), they found themselves in constant demand. Debbie has since then surrounded herself with some of the Twin Cities' finest musicians creating many different sound, colors and textures."

Powell shared, "She is very soulful in her blues singing, but she can sing popular songs without overdoing it as well. She is very versatile."

Bassist Chris Bates started playing upright bass in fourth grade and according to his website, "has been on a lifelong journey of musical discovery. Chris spent over 15 years studying the instrument with noted classical pedagogue James Clute of the Minnesota Orchestra and reknowned jazz bassist Anthony Cox. Self taught on the electric bass Chris has always pushed himself to explore new musical styles from around the world and has blossomed into a very creative and supportive bassist. Raised on a healthy dose of big band jazz and progressive rock Chris' chameleonic playing has evolved to encompass reggae, funk, country, folk, jazz and classical music."

According to drummer Jay Epstein's website, he "has an extensive career as a performing, recording and touring artist. After college, he studied polyrhythmic concepts in Manhattan with Barry Altschul, the drummer in Chick Corea's Circle. He has lived in Hollywood, Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Miami, Minneapolis and played in house bands for five years on several cruise ship lines. He's been on seven European tours with pianists Bill Carrothers and Giacomo Aula."

Saxophonist Peter Vircks "is credited as a sideman on over 30 recorded albums. He's also performed music on several network television commercials and independent films." His website also states that Vircks holds improvisation "at the center of his expressions."

Pianist Bryan Nichols "is a Minneapolis-based pianist and composer, working primarily in jazz and improvised music." He has his own group, We Are Many, and teaches jazz piano at MacPhail Center for Music and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He received a 2010-2011 McKnight Fellowship for Performing Musicians and a 2004 residency by Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead program at the Kennedy Center.

Beside the guest artist concert on Friday, the group will also be performing at the Big Band Bash concert the following evening. They will be performing alongside the Fillmore Central High School Jazz Ensemble for two pieces and in a separate set as well. The Bash will have both the seventh, eighth and ninth grade Jazz Orchestra and the senior high Jazz Ensemble play separate sets of pieces during the serving of a meal by Wheeler's Bar and Grill. Tickets for this event are all sold out.

The concert is being made possible through generous donations by Harmony Enterprises, Inc., and First Southeast Bank of Harmony. Other important supporters include the Harmony Arts Board, Harmony Golf Club, On The Crunchy Side of Harmony, Preston Area Arts Council, Village Square of Harmony and Wheeler's Bar and Grill. Powell also secured a grant from the Southeast Minnesota Arts Council.