Annual WIU Jazz Fest Features Drummer Dennis Mackrel

Dennis Mackrel, WIU Jazz Fest

Dennis Mackrel, WIU Jazz Fest

From University Relations:

The 39th Annual Western Illinois University Jazz Festival will be held Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 16-18, 2012. On Thursday evening, there will be a jam session at Cafe’ Aroma.

Friday’s main event will be concerts by the WIU Jazz Band and Jazz Studio Orchestra  featuring Dennis Mackrel, the great drummer and Leader of the Count Basie Orchestra!

Drummer/Composer/Arranger Dennis Mackrel was born in 1962. A child prodigy, he began playing the drums at 2. While a member of the acclaimed University of Nevada Las Vegas Jazz Ensemble, he caught the attention of vocalist Joe Williams; and in 1983, Dennis joined the Count Basie Orchestra on the singer’s personal recommendation. He was the youngest member of the orchestra at the time and stayed for three years, returning to New York in 1987 to become the drummer of choice for a number of large ensembles, including The Carla Bley Big Band; The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra; The Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band; and his own band, The Manhattan Symphony Jazz Orchestra. In 2010, Dennis continued his strong connection to the Basie family of musicians by becoming the leader of the Count Basie Orchestra, following in the shoes of other great band alumni like Frank Foster and Thad Jones. Dennis has also become a highly respected conductor/arranger/educator whose works have been recorded and performed by many bands, including The McCoy Tyner Big Band, whose Grammy winning CDs The Turning Point and Journey included four of Dennis’s arrangements. His educational work has taken him around the world as has his work as a sideman with Lionel Hampton, Hank Jones, Take 6, Tony Bennett, Nancy Wilson, Clare Fischer, Quincy Jones and Sir George Shearing, who said “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.” Visit his website at

Public $15; Senior Citizen $8; Youth $6; WIU Student FREE with valid University ID. Tickets available at the Hainline Box Office and at the event.

Read more at the University Relations press release.

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