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Saxophonist joins BSU for festive evening

Members of the BSU Jazz Band have an impromptu jam session with guest sax player Dave Pietro, right, as they prepare Wednesday for today’s Jingle Jazz Concert at 7:30 p.m. in the Bangsberg Main Theatre. From left are Uriah Keller, Jabari Prevost, Josh May, Frank Olson, Freddy Kiesel and Luke Barnard. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – As a famous jazz musician once said about Dave Pietro, “He’s absolutely two thumbs up, and, if I had more hands, he’d be more thumbs up!”

Pietro arrived mid-afternoon Wednesday in Bemidji to spend time working with the jazz students at Bemidji State University and prepare for tonight’s Jingle Jazz Concert starting at 7:30 p.m. in the main theater of Bangsberg Fine and Performing Arts Complex on the BSU campus.

Blue Ice, the official name of the BSU jazz ensemble, will welcome Pietro, famed saxophonist, to the stage for the second installment of the Bemidji Concert Series this year.

Pietro is a faculty member at the School of Music and Performing Arts Professionals at the Steinhardt School of New York University. He is an assistant professor of jazz studies at NYU and an alum with a graduate degree in jazz composition.

“I’ve never met Del Lyren (BSU music professor) but I accepted this gig because I travel across the country to be able to play with students,” Pietro said. “The most important thing that I can do is to pass on my knowledge to the next generation.”

Pietro said guest artists were inspirational for him during his school years, helping him understand how the “language of music” should sound.

“Playing jazz is a social art in that it must be created with other musicians,” Pietro said. “There is openness, a conversation, and in great improvisation, the leader does not dominate.”

Lyren said he chose Pietro as a guest artist and master class teacher because he fits the bill. Early in Pietro’s music studies, he was a semifinalist for the first two Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Saxophone competitions and a finalist in the 1995 JAZZIS Magazine “Woodwinds on Fire” talent search.

Pietro has played as lead alto saxophone on six CD’s with the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra, and toured and or recorded with the bands of Woody Herman, Lionel Hampton, Maynard Ferguson and The Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra – to name a few of the prestigious groups who have accepted him into their ranks.

Pietro has also performed with Paul Anka, Louis Bellson, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Ray Charles, across the spectrum to the Indian tablist Sandip Burman.

Jingle Jazz concert will be a festive evening of “jazzy” Christmas music Lyren promises to the devotees of the jazz genre. For all others, it will simply be a chance to see and hear a jazz musician from the great performance halls around the world.

Tickets cost $10 for adults and $4 for students. BSU and Northwest Technical College students can attend free with an ID.