Lake Norman & Mooresville

Renowned jazz trombonist coming to town

Lake Norman area jazz fans are in for a special treat on Feb. 4, when renowned trombonist Jim Pugh will appear at three special events in Cornelius.

The events include a lunch/jazz discussion, a jazz clinic Hough High School and a big band jazz concert.

All of the events came about from a discussion between Pugh and James McNabb, the leader of the Lake Norman Big Band, a nonprofit, volunteer band. "I attended a trombone convention last year at Fort Meyer, Va., near Arlington Cemetery," said McNabb. "Jim was the featured artist. I had never met him before, but I knew of his musical accomplishments, so we spoke after one of his concerts. Somehow, he agreed to come to North Carolina to play with us."

According to McNabb, Pugh has toured extensively with the Woody Herman Band, Chick Corea and currently with Steely Dan. He also has more than 4,000 sessions to his credit as one of New York's top-call freelance trombonists.

At the evening concert in Cornelius, Pugh will team up with McNabb's 20-piece band, as well as jazz ensembles from Bailey Middle School, Hough High School and Davidson College.

There is no admission charge to any of the events, which are being made possible, in part, by a grant from the Arts and Science Council of Mecklenburg County.

"The council awarded the Lake Norman Big Band a $1,900 special project grant to support Jim Pugh's visit," said Program Director Ryan Deal. The Lake Norman Big Band holds monthly concerts at the Finish Line Restaurant in Mooresville, and during the past two years, ASC has awarded $13,150 in grants, primarily supporting their regular season of concerts.

The council's monies come from their annual fund drive, as well as the N.C. Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Pugh's career combines his talents as a distinguished trombonist, composer and educator. His trombone can be heard in collaboration with leading classical and popular artists and orchestras such as André Previn, Paul Simon, Barbara Streisand, Tony Bennett, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Pink Floyd and Frank Sinatra.

He has also performed on many famous film and Broadway show soundtracks including "A League of Their Own," "When Harry Met Sally," "City of Angels," "Fosse and Victor/Victoria."

As a composer, his original music and arrangements can be heard on National Public Radio, in film scores, on "jingles," and on record.

Pugh, 61, is currently on the faculty of the University of Illinois, and in the past has taught at SUNY-Purchase College, the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and at New York University.

The Lake Norman Big Band is a nonprofit group of 20 volunteer musicians. Formed in 1998 and incorporated in 2007, the group has entertained at charity events and private affairs, such as weddings. The band includes five saxophone players, four to five trombonists, four or five trumpeters, vocalists and some members who play other instruments.

The median age of the band members is mid-50s, and most have day jobs.

The new musical director, Jeff Markee, is a recent graduate of UNC Chapel Hill.

Although their play list includes tunes like "Sing, Sing, Sing," composed in 1936 by Louis Prima, as well as selections made famous by Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller and other big dance bands in the 1930s and 1940s, McNabb said the group tries to be relevant to its audience. "A good big band is able to play the different styles from different eras," he said. "We want to be able to touch people of different ages."