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The Spirit of Jazz & Democracy takes jazz in a new direction at Loyola University New Orleans

Loyola press release - October 5, 2018

Master avant garde drummer Paul F. Murphy and renowned bebop pianist Larry Willis will hold a master class and perform a totally improvised concert, “Liberation!” on Thursday, October 11, at Loyola University New Orleans. Both events are free and open to the public.

Murphy and Willis’ latest project, "the Spirit of Jazz & Democracy," features interactive lectures, performances, workshops, and master classes that derive key lessons from jazz about promoting freedom and inclusive democracy. Poet laureate Jere Carroll, drummer Dominic Fragman, and philosopher and Loyola chief diversity officer Sybol Anderson join Murphy and Willis onstage for guest performances and interactive discussions of jazz and the state of US democracy.

Oxford University Press’ Grove Dictionary of American Music has recognized Murphy and Willis’ spontaneous compositions as “a new direction in the jazz and art arena.” Bebop and avant garde artists rarely mix. “In jazz, as in politics, there are conservatives and progressives,” Murphy observes. “But all art is innovation, and innovation and progress, in both art and politics, are fueled by free thinking. Free thinking and engaging others’ free thinking, with tolerance and peace, is true freedom.” This is one of many links between jazz and democracy.

Paul Murphy began playing drums at age six. At age nine he began an 11-year tutelage with Joseph Leavitt, principal percussionist for the National Symphony Orchestra and director of percussion at Peabody Conservatory. He also studied with Louie Bellson.

By age 16, Murphy had attended Duke Ellington rehearsals in Washington, D.C., and performed regularly with Ellington’s bassist, Billy Taylor. In the early 1970’s, he established himself as a bandleader in San Francisco. Avant garde pianist Cecil Taylor and saxophonist Jimmy Lyons invited him to New York where he helped Rashied Ali manage Ali’s Alley in SoHo. Murphy joined Jimmy Lyons' band, and Lyons dubbed him a master. In 1981, the audiophile digital recording company Soundstream recorded Murphy and Lyons as reference points for how drums and saxophone should sound.

Bebop veteran and three-time Grammy nominee Larry Willis made his first splash at 19 with saxophonist Jackie McLean. He has since played and recorded with a list of jazz royalty including Dizzy Gillespie, Kai Winding, Art Blakey, Stan Getz, Lee Morgan, Cannonball and Nat Adderley, Woody Shaw, Carmen McRae, Roy Hargrove, Wynton Marsalis, and Hugh Masekela. Having played on over 300 records, including 25 as a leader, Willis is widely regarded as one of the finest jazz pianists alive.

Willis’ virtuosity extends into rock and classical music. He spent seven years as keyboardist with Blood, Sweat, and Tears, and he has composed for the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra and Florida Southern College Symphony Orchestra.

“Increasing division in politics challenges our democracy,” Willis said. “All Paul and I really want to do is to be a part of that feeling in philosophy that talks about peace on earth and good will towards men. I think it is a very noble and simple way to live. I can only explain it up to a certain point. The rest of it you'll have to experience.”

Murphy and Willis’ master class will be held 1:45 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. in Communications/Music Complex Room 240. The concert begins at 7:00 p.m. in the Louis J. Roussel Performance Hall, Loyola University New Orleans, 6363 St. Charles Avenue. Free parking is available in the university’s West Road Garage, located off of St. Charles Avenue.

For more information, contact the Loyola Box Office at (504) 865-2074 or email tickets@loyno.edu.





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