How many community or college ensembles were selected to perform at Europe’s oldest jazz festival, held in July on the French Riviera? Thirty two groups from around the world were selected to play on the off festival sites, but the Henry Ford Big Band from Henry Ford Community College was the only one selected to play on the famous Pinede Gould main stage with international professional recording artists.
“This was our second time to perform at the annual Jazz à Juan Festival,” said Rick Goward, Henry Ford Big Band’s director of 27 years. “And, it was made even more special, because this was the festival’s 50th anniversary.”
Raising nearly $75,000 to fund the band’s trip to Europe was not a small feat in today’s economy. However, Goward acknowledged the tremendous support that the band received from longtime supporters and the local community.
Formed in 1983, the Henry Ford Big Band performs music of legendary American jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Buddy Rich, Count Basie and Stan Kenton, to name a few. The band has performed twice at New York’s famed Carnegie Hall, eight times at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, three times for U.S. Presidential Inaugurations, and other appearances at the New Orleans Mardi Gras, the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Edinburgh International Festival and 25 consecutive years at the Detroit International Jazz Festival.
Recently, the band was honored with the Wayne County USA County Executive’s Award presented by the Wayne County Council for Arts, History and Humanities.
In addition to this summer’s full house, main stage performance at the Jazz à Juan Festival, the Henry Ford Big Band performed for large receptive audiences in the Old Town area of Juan les Pins and Antibes, France.
In addition to the standing ovations the musicians received following the concert at the Jazz à Juan Festival, the band also made the front page of the Nice morning newspaper the following day. DVD copies of the televised concert will be available in early November, and the band is hopeful that the concert will be aired on PBS Detroit television.
“In my 34 years of teaching, this year’s festival performance attracted the largest and most enthusiastic audience ever,” added Goward.
Henry Ford Big Band members include young professional musicians, music educators and traditional aged music students who enroll in Henry Ford Community College to continue their performance and study of big band literature.
Big Band members include alto saxophonists Christopher Traskal of Detroit and Joe LaRussa of Farmington; tenor saxophonists Pete Birchler of Detroit and Early Lundy of Canton; and baritone saxophonist Neal Kesterson of Maybee. Trumpeters are Paul Abbott of Allen Park, James Bostek of Ferndale, John Harwick of Ferndale, and Pat Jensen of Dearborn. The band’s trombonists are Tim Fisher of Ferndale, Rob Hartman of Lincoln Park, Ian Stark of Lincoln Park and John Bostek of Flushing. Rounding out the group are pianist Terhan Terrell of Oak Park, bass player Roger Zielinski of Allen Park, and percussionist Ian Kushner of Dearborn.
For information about upcoming performances of the Henry Ford Big Band, email [email protected].