Monday, November 23, 2009

Miles Johnston to highlight SMU jazz concert Dec. 4

WINONA, Minn. — Saint Mary’s University will present an evening of jazz — featuring student jazz groups and guest musician Miles Johnston — Friday, Dec. 4.

The event will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Page Theater, located in the SMU Performance Center. The Jazz Ensemble (16-piece big band) and Jazz Combo I, both under the direction of Dr. John Paulson, will perform.

The Jazz Ensemble will perform a wide range of styles, featuring several distinctive student soloists, and Johnston, who is a multi-talented drummer, singer and cornet player. The set will include “The Nasty Blues” by Mike Carubia, which will include solos by Vanessa Grams of Little Falls on alto sax; Trevor Woggon of Viroqua, Wis., on trombone; Benjamin Scott of Rochester on bari sax; and bassist Joe Mazucca of St. Michael. Also included will be Mike Tomaro’s arrangement of Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington’s “Caravan”; “Smack Dab in the Middle,” arranged by Sammy Nestico from the book of Count Basie; and a new plunger trombone feature, “Keep the Stick” by Dean Sorenson. This piece will highlight the work of student trombonist Tom Briese of Rochester, Minn. Johnston will sing several selections from the Great American Songbook, arranged by Dave Wolpe for big band, including, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Just Friends” and “Night and Day.”

Jazz Combo I will play several recognizable works by Horace Silver like “The Preacher” and “Sister Sadie,” along with an outstanding arrangement of “Freddie The Freeloader” by Miles Davis, arranged by Frank Mantooth and featuring Johnston on cornet. Also, included in their set will be a new arrangement by vibraphonist Jeremy Johnston of “Black Magic Woman,” as played by Santana.

A jazzy Christmas tune or two will be included in the mix, and an additional Jazz Workshop Combo will perform in the lobby for a pre-concert show. Come early to enjoy music by these talented students.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors and are available at the SMU Box Office, (507) 457-1715, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays or online at

Miles Johnston

Miles Johnston has been playing music for more than 40 years. He studied music at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and then piano technology at the UW-River Falls.

While in the Army, Johnston played in stage band, concert band, marching band, and small jazz and rock groups. With the 3rd Armored Division Band he traveled throughout Germany, Holland, and France playing Fasching parades, concerts, beer tents, and Army ceremonial jobs.

After the Army and after finishing school, Johnston and his family moved to Rochester, where he has played with numerous bands.

When Johnston was in his early 40s, he decided to take up the cornet as a second instrument. After seven years of cornet practice, just as he had started to play publicly, he was humbled by the onset of Bell’s palsy, which temporarily paralyzed the left side of his face. It was a year before he could play publicly again.

In 2000-2001, he performed aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line flag ship the S.S. Norway. Since then, has been performing with the swing group 2 O’Clock Jump and doing freelance work. He also regularly plays with the Miles Johnston Quartet and as part of a local jazz trio and duo.