The Xavier University Jazz Ensemble is performing five special concerts this fall that resemble the atmosphere of the old jazz clubs. Instead of neat rows of chairs, audience members are seated at tables where they can enjoy snacks and beverages while imagining they are listening to Charlie Parker at Birdland, Dizzy Gillespie at The Blue Note or even B.B. King at The Palladium.
Ensemble director John DeFoor has been a performer, arranger, composer, critic, historian, conductor and educator since the 1950s. He played and arranged for bands including Billy May, Woody Herman, Les Brown and Harry James. He has taught at Xavier since 1983, where he has been the principal designer of jazz courses and the director for the Jazz Ensemble, which has entertained audiences for 20 years, while continuing to participate in the development of contemporary idioms.
DeFoor has led his band, Rara Avis, at the NFL commissioner’s annual pre-Super Bowl party since Super Bowl XI in 1977. In 2008, he was asked to direct the National Jazz Band during the Jan. 20 inauguration ceremonies for then President-Elect Barack Obama.
The Jazz Ensemble has released four CDs: Rara Avis (1999), Big Bad Band (2002), Jammin’ With an Attitude (2004), Sweet Love (2006), and Make Me Smile (soon to be released). The group is currently working on a 25th anniversary CD.
The first concert was held Oct. 16. The dates of the remaining four performances are:
• Friday, Oct. 30, at 7:30 p.m. in Ryan’s Pub in the Gallagher Student Center. Admission is free.
• Sundays, Nov. 8 and 22, at 8:15 p.m. in Xavier’s Edgecliff Recital Hall. Admission is free.
• Friday, Dec. 4, at 7:00 p.m. at the Lyric, 8907 Reading Road. The $5 charge includes admission, music, snacks, ice and soft drinks. Fans are invited to bring their own beverage.