One of jazz’s most acclaimed trombonists is coming home to Augusta to share his passion for the art form with students as a scholar – and for the public at large through a live show weaving jazz, funk and R&B.
Wycliffe Gordon will perform with The Nu Funk Revolution Saturday, Aug. 16, at Sky City, 1157 Broad St., with two sets for the evening.
Gordon, who begins a three-year appointment as artist-in-residence at Georgia Regents University this fall, might have been influenced by the greats of jazz – and other bands and solo artists of different genres during his youth, such as the Jackson Five, Parliament/Funkadelic, Kool and the Gang – but don’t expect mimicry from this world-renowned musician and his colleagues.
“I don’t really like the jam session mentality,” Gordon said during a telephone interview. “I don’t expect people to pay for it. There’s a time and a place for it.”
Instead, he and the band plan to bring a performance melding original compositions to tunes that are recognizable, such as those of the legendary James Brown and Stevie Wonder.
“We’ll have some funk and RB, and do some of the funk standards, but why should I reinvent the wheel?” he said. “You’re not going to do James Brown better than James Brown, or Stevie Wonder better than Stevie Wonder.
“It’s not just a cover band, because I’m not interested in that either,” Gordon explained. “I’ve always recorded original compositions. I want to create the new standards and there’s no way to do that if I’m not writing or composing.”
The beauty of jazz is the ability to embrace the rich diversity of musical forms, he said, noting other additional music he heard as a youth besides jazz, R&B and funk – the classical music of his father, who was a pianist, gospel, spirituals and pop music.
“When you have all of those perspectives to come from when creating music, you can interject as much or as little as you want,” Gordon said. “Jazz is a language that is a combination of cultures at its roots.”
In addition to anticipating the upcoming show, he’s excited to take on his residency at GRU, where he established a scholarship several years ago at the former Augusta State University.
“I established the scholarship there to provide for music students studying there, and ultimately the big picture is to establish a jazz studies program and see what we can make of it,” Gordon said, “recognized nationally internationally, and attract students not just from the area, but nationally and abroad.”
“I think that’s a few years away, but with the implementation of the artist-in-residence, we’re well on the way,” he continued.
Gordon will be working with ensembles, teaching with other faculty and working to establish educational opportunities for students in Augusta.
“If we can get everything together … I think it’s going to enrich the (music) community and the community at large,” he said.
Music education is indeed a critical part of an education as a whole, Gordon said.
“(Music) breaks down the barriers that separate people,” he said. “It’s a common and universal language. It has been the thing that’s brought people together. It makes us realize the things we have in common, rather than our differences.”