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Western Jazz Quartet completes State Department tour

June 12, 2007

KALAMAZOO--The Western Jazz Quartet, Western Michigan University's faculty jazz ensemble, recently returned from a two-week artist ambassador tour in Slovenia and Croatia.

The internationally acclaimed quartet, which includes bassist Tom Knific, saxophonist Trent Kynaston, pianist Steve Zegree, and drummer Tim Froncek, completed a 30-concert series that began in North Carolina and culminated in a two-week European tour organized by the U.S. Department of State.

Hosted by U.S. embassies in Slovenia and Croatia, the Western Jazz Quartet was invited to perform in nearly a dozen venues, from trendy nightclubs and outdoor festivals to ancient town piazzas. Members of the Slovenian parliament and U.S. State Department were among the group's most devoted fans. The quartet also entertained thousands of local artists, college and university students, and townspeople.

Albert Kraaimoore, public diplomacy officer of the U.S. Embassy in Ljubljana, Slovenia, says the Western Jazz Quartet put on the greatest performance in the history of their embassy series.

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

"From all reports, the embassies are ecstatic with our work," says Knific, who has toured Slovenia, home to his grandparents and extended family, three times. "I'm already talking with the State Department about potential tours to Italy and Albania."

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. They have released several albums in Europe and five domestically. Two--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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