Billy Higgins jazz festival returns to Fresno State March 17

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Billy Higgins jazz festival returns to Fresno State March 17

The annual Billy Higgins Jazz Festival will return to California State University, Fresno on Saturday, March 17 under the sponsorship of University Student Union Productions and the Music Department.

Joining the Billy Higgins Quintet will be Forbidden Fruit, featuring James Hurt on piano, and Latin jazz artist Danilo Perez & The Motherland Project.

The festival marks the third visit to Fresno by Higgins. Appearing with Higgins are his long-time working companions, all leaders and exceptional artists in their own rights. Members of the quintet include David Williams on bass, Oscar Brashear on trumpet, Harold Land on saxophone, and a special guest pianist.

Higgins, who celebrates his 65th birthday this year, continues to be in demand as a first-call drummer and holds the title of the most-recorded drummer in jazz history. He is an integral part of the Charles Lloyd Quartet and co-founder of the World Stage in Los Angeles, providing workshops and performing space for talented young musicians.

Leading off the day’s events will be a lecture and musical demonstration by Dr. James Miley and Dr. Ben Boone of the Fresno State Music Department at 3 p.m. in the Satellite Student Union.

The festival performances begin with Forbidden Fruit, a jazz quartet featuring Blue Note artist James Hurt, joined by Abraham Burton on saxophone, Eric McPherson on drums and Yosuke Inoue on bass. Hurt, a pianist, percussionist, composer, and arranger, is one of the most formidable new jazz talents on the New York scene. Inspired by jazz piano legend Phinneas Newbourne, Jr. , Hurt began to compose at the piano in his late teens in his hometown of Memphis, Tenn. After earning his master’s degree in Education, he moved to New York in 1994.

Panamanian pianist and composer Danilo Perez is a leader in a new generation of jazz musicians. By combining distinctive Latin rhythms with his abiding love for jazz, he’s earned a reputation as an artist who transcends conventional definitions of jazz. Universal acclaim for Perez began with the 1994 release of “The Journey,” widely acknowledged as his breakthrough album. The Grammy-nominated “Central Avenue” on Impulse in 1998 showcased Perez’s diversity of styles while fully embracing his Panamanian roots. In February 2000, President Mireya Moscoso of the Republic of Panama honored Perez by appointing him Cultural Ambassador of Panama.

Tickets for the Jazz Festival are available at, the University Student Union and the Kern Street Coffee Company in Fresno. Ticket prices are $25 for the general public, $20 for seniors and $10 for students of all ages. Additional sponsors include KSEE 24 and the Harry C. Mitchell Trust.

For information about the artists contact Jo Ann Collins at (559) 278-4680. For any other information contact the University Student Union Ticket Office at (559) 278-2078.