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Jazz quartet tapped for another State Department tour

Jan. 9, 2008

KALAMAZOO--The Western Jazz Quartet, Western Michigan University's faculty jazz ensemble, leaves Saturday, Jan. 12, for an Arts Ambassador tour in Chile. This will be the group's second U.S. Department of State-organized tour in the past year.

The visit will include six solid days of concerts, clinics and master classes for the internationally acclaimed quartet, which consists of bassist Tom Knific, saxophonist Trent Kynaston, pianist Steve Zegree and drummer Tim Froncek. A highlight of the tour, which is hosted by U.S. embassies in South America, will be a performance at Chile's premiere Providencia Jazz Festival, where crowds of up to 5,000 are anticipated.

The Western Jazz Quartet has been called upon by the State Department and U.S. embassies throughout the world for nearly 15 years. Last May, the group performed a two-week artist ambassador tour in Croatia and Slovenia. Other countries served by the quartet in this capacity include Italy, Poland, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Costa Rica and Guatemala.

Albert Kraaimoore, public diplomacy officer of the U.S. Embassy in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and an organizer of last year's tour, gave the Western Jazz Quartet a glowing review.

"I can say unequivocally that yours was the best concert we have had at the ambassador's residence," he wrote to Knific, who leads the quartet, and is a professor of music and director of jazz studies at WMU. "I hope that I will see you again either here in Slovenia or elsewhere."

Knific says he and other members of the group are proud to represent their nation, as well as the University and its surrounding community.

"The Western Jazz Quartet enjoys sharing its passion and commitment to America's most creative and unique art form," Knific says. "The Department of State recognizes and values the many positive results of our work, and in turn, we are grateful for these opportunities to build new audiences, make new friends, and--on a number of occasions--recruit talented students to WMU."

The Western Jazz Quartet has been hailed throughout the United States and abroad. Formed in 1974, the group promotes jazz music and education through an active schedule of tours, concerts and educational workshops. The quartet has released several albums in Europe and five domestically. Two albums, Firebird and Blue Harts, received top reviews in Down Beat magazine, with Firebird being named one of the best albums of the 1990s.

Media contact: Tonya Hernandez, (269) 387-8400, tonya.hernandez@wmich.edu

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