Chris McCourry, director of jazz ensembles at Hillsdale College, is bringing Rafael Mendez’s legendary trumpet music to campus in an upcoming faculty recital.
“Mendez is kind of a hero of mine,” McCourry said. “He was a Mexican trumpet player, and he was just phenomenal beyond belief. He was one of the greatest soloists ever.”
McCourry will be accompanied by teacher of piano Brad Blackham and jazz drum set teacher Larry Ochiltree. For the past 15 years, Blackham said he has done a recital with McCourry every year except one.
“I love collaborating with Chris. I’m in awe of his ability to be so outstanding in both the classical and jazz worlds,” Blackham said. “Most of the programs we’ve done usually have a mix of both.”
Blackham said the combination of styles that Mendez uses is full of energy and is very exciting to play and listen to. He also said that performing this can be difficult.
“The most challenging aspect of playing the pieces on this program is the ensemble of the piano and the trumpet,” Blackham said. “I really have to be on my toes to make sure I’m with Chris at all times.”
Blackham will be playing in four pieces for the first half of the recital.
“I’m really looking forward to presenting these pieces to the audience, because I know the audience will get a kick out of them,” Blackham said.
James Holleman, chair of the Hillsdale College Music Department, said the faculty recitals are an important part of the learning process for students, allowing them to hear their teachers perform and learn by example.
“Mr. McCoury has been real consistent to challenge himself,” Holleman said. “He’s a really dedicated performer.”
McCourry said the second half of the recital will feature guest artist, Hammond B3 jazz organist Tony Monaco, who is also a B3 specialist.
McCourry explained that the B3 organ has unique characteristics that are not found in any other instrument, such as the “Leslie speakers,” which spin around inside the cabinet and create the vibrato effect.
“Monaco is an opportunity for students to hear something they’re very unfamiliar with,” Holleman said.
McCourry will be playing a variety of pieces, including “The Virgin Macarena,” which he said he is looking forward to the most.
“I have copied Vince DeMartino’s candenzas, which I was never able to play before because they go so high,” McCourry said. “Now, I can do it.”
The recital will take place Jan. 25 at 8:00 p.m. in Markel Auditorium and admission is free.