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Western Jazz Quartet uses music to build ties with Mozambique

by Mark Schwerin

June 17, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of Western Jazz Quartet working with Mozambican musicians.
Collaborating with local musicians in Mozambique
KALAMAZOO--Members of the Western Jazz Quartet played musical ambassadors on a recent trip to the south African nation of Mozambique.

The quartet, a faculty ensemble within the WMU School of Music, was invited to the capital city Maputo May 3-10 to perform five concerts, including one at the U.S. Ambassador's residence.

The quartet, composed of bassist Tom Knific, saxophonist Trent Kynaston, pianist Steve Zegree and drummer Tim Froncek, performed four shows during the 2011 Maputo International Music Festival. In one concert, the group was joined on stage by a Mozambican jazz saxophonist and singer.

"So we had this great opportunity to collaborate with the local musicians," says Zegree, the WMU Bobby McFerrin Professor of Jazz. "That was wonderful for the audience to see their own interacting with us and it was fun for us to interact with them."

The festival brings together a wide range of classical and jazz musicians, both Mozambican and from abroad. Over the years, it has garnered increased international recognition.

"We were the only representation in the jazz genre," Zegree says. "There was also classical, symphony orchestra, chamber music, opera and all styles of music. We're always happy to represent WMU and the School of Music beyond the campus borders. But in this case, it was quite an extraordinary interchange as well."

The musical collaboration continued throughout the week. Zegree conducted several vocal jazz clinics, conducting a choir in one concert using one of his arrangements backed by the quartet.

"It was really great and really memorable," Zegree says. "What was especially wonderful was to have this cultural interaction. We always love meeting the local people and we do a great deal of that, whether we're interacting with them or performing with them or giving lessons. So we were able to do all of those things. And that just makes it a real thrill."