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Jazz in June
By Tom Ineck
Kansas City Star
06/11/2010

Kansas City singer Angela Hagenbach, a longtime Lincoln favorite who has appeared here many times over the last 15 years, will front a sextet for the June 15th Jazz in June performance, which is sure to feature selections from her recent release, “The Way They Make Me Feel.”

Hagenbach last performed in Lincoln in 2007, appearing at Jazz in June as a guest artist with the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra. A Kansas City native, she initially worked as a fashion model and sang in a pop music band until 1989, when her introduction to the music of Sarah Vaughan inspired her to switch to jazz. She soon began working regularly at Kansas City’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel, a gig that lasted four years. She has five recordings on Amazon Records, including the excellent 1994 release “Come Fly with Me” and 2001’s equally stunning “Weaver of Dreams.” Her long-standing love of Brazilian music led to the formation of the popular group Musa Nova, which performed in the region throughout the 1990s.

For her June 15th performance, Hagenbach’s honeysmooth, sultry vocals will get the intimate treatment they deserve from a combo of Kansas City stalwarts—saxophonist Matt Otto, guitarist Danny Embrey, pianist Roger Wilder, bassist Steve Rigazzi and drummer Doug Auwarter. Embrey, Wilder, Rigazzi and Auwarter have a long history with Hagenbach, creating a unit that operates with ease and flawless precision. This element makes for an exciting chemistry that allows everyone to improvise fearlessly.

Formerly based in New York City and Los Angeles, saxophonist Otto is relatively unknown in this area, but he has impressive credentials. A well-respected reed player with seven CDs as a leader since his debut release, “Dig” in 1992, he has also recorded or performed with guitarist Anthony Wilson, pianist Junior Mance, trumpeter Tom Harrell, organist Jimmy Smith, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath. Otto has played some of the country’s top jazz clubs and festivals, heightening our anticipation for his first Jazz in June appearance.

The six-piece ensemble will likely draw from Hagenbach’s latest release, her first for Resonance Records and a tribute to three lesser-known composers of the Great American Songbook— Johnny Mandel, Michel Legrand and Henry Mancini. Having received somewhat grudging respect from jazz musicians and singers over the years, they are perfect subjects for homage, and Hagenbach gives them their due with four tunes by Mandel, four by Legrand and three by Mancini. Some of the more familiar titles are Mandel’s “Close Enough for Love,” Legrand’s “I Will Wait for You,” and Mancini’s “Charade.”

As I recently wrote of the CD on the Berman Music Foundation website at www.bermanmusicfoundation.org, “Hagenbach has enjoyed an area following for more than a decade, but has had difficulty breaking through to a wider audience. With its superb production values, top-notch musicianship and obvious thematic approach ‘The Way They Make Me Feel’ should change that.”

Jazz in June concerts begin at 7 p.m. in the Sculpture Garden west of the Sheldon Museum of Art on the downtown campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Admission is free, but concertgoers are asked to donate what they can to maintain the high quality of music.

In its 19th year, Jazz in June is organized by the Sheldon Art Association, the Berman Music Foundation and the UNL School of Music. To volunteer your services in this community event, call Laurie Sipple at 472-1170. The rest of the 2010 Jazz in June series:

 June 22, Jeff Newell’s New-Trad Octet will perform their unique blend of jazz innovation and brass band tradition. Newell last performed in Lincoln in January 2006 as a guest soloist with the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra.

 June 29, guitar great Jerry Hahn returns to Lincoln with a quartet also featuring Joe Cartwright on piano. Born in Alma, NE., Hahn grew up in Wichita, KS. In the early 1970s, he led the ground-breaking group the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood.