It’s become a spring highlight at Bethel College – the annual Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble Workshop concert, featuring a special guest art.

This year’s concert will 7:30 p.m. March 31 and will be with trombone great Wycliffe Gordon.

The event takes place in Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts Center and will also include Bethel College Jazz Ensemble I.

There is no admission charge, but a freewill offering will be taken to support Bethel jazz study and performance.

Wycliffe Gordon is at Bethel as part of Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble’s (MKJE) annual day-long workshop, where MKJE members attend clinics with the guest artist during the day and perform with the guest and Bethel’s Jazz I in the evening concert.

Jim Pisano, director of jazz studies at Bethel, also directs MKJE and Bethel Jazz I.

“[Gordon] is an amazing trombonist and vocalist,” Pisano said. “He’s going to fill up that hall with sound – it’s going to be amazing.

“He’s very entertaining with how he delivers the entertainment side of jazz via singing, and the way he plays the trombone and improvises. It’s going to be a very high-energy event, I can tell you that.”

Both MKJE and Bethel Jazz I are fresh from performances for the Kansas Music Educators Association in February.

MKJE is an auditioned high school honors jazz band in residence at Bethel College. MKJE usually plays a fall and spring concert at Bethel, in collaboration with one or more Bethel jazz ensembles and often with a guest artist.

Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble personnel are: saxophones, Brandon Ray, alto (Maize South High School), Michael Klein, alto (Derby High School), Jon Kohl, tenor (Maize High School), Caleb Abbott, tenor (Maize), and Mason Klish, baritone (Derby); trumpets, Paxton Leaf (McPherson High School), Jamie Black (Derby), Michaela Ensor (Derby) and Adam Schmidt (Derby); trombones, Justin Koegeboehn (Maize), Sam Bartel (Hesston High School), Adam Kroeker (Augusta High School) and Drew Walden (Wichita East High School); piano, Hadley Hageman (McPherson); guitar, Brady Volkmann (Bishop Carroll High School, Wichita) and Ben Peyton (Newton High School); bass, Jules White (Wichita Collegiate High School); and drums, Talin Goebel (McPherson).

Bethel College Jazz Ensemble I personnel are: saxophones, Neil Smucker, North Newton, Matt Lind, Harrisonburg, Virginia, Westen Gesell, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Zane Richter, McPherson, and Ben Wiens, Goessel; trumpets, Braden Unruh, Goessel, Evan Koch, North Newton, Connor Born, North Newton, and Alec Loganbill, Hesston; trombones, Andrew Thiesen, Newton, Billie Selichnow, Wichita, Brendan Ostlund, Mount Hope, and Nate Kroeker (bass), Augusta; guitar, Jayce Yoder, Topeka; bass, Eli Brockway, McPherson; piano, Matt Graber, Freeman, South Dakota; drums, Chuck Lenley, Kansas City, Missouri, and Micah Miller; and Elizabeth Friesen Birky, Denver, vocals.

For the March 31 concert, Bethel Jazz I’s set list is “Three and One” by Thad Jones; “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” by Sigmund Romberg, arranged by Robert McCurdy; and three by Gordon: “The Woogie,” Wishing Well” (arranged by John Mahoney) and “Hallelujah Shout.”

MKJE will play “Easy to Love” by Cole Porter, arranged by Sammy Nestico; “Doozy” by Benny Carter; and two by Gordon: “Something New” and “Wat You Dealin’ Wit.” 

The Downbeat Critics Poll awarded Gordon “Best Trombone” in 2016, 2014, 2013 and 2012, while the Jazz Journalists Association named him “Trombonist of the Year” in 2016 (his ninth time to receive the honor).

In 2015, Gordon was “Best Trombone” in the Jazzed Reader’s Poll, received the Satchmo Award from the Sarasota Jazz Club and the Louis Armstrong Memorial Prize from the Swing Jazz Culture Foundation, and was named Artist of the Year by the Augusta (Georgia) Arts Council. He is also a past recipient of the ASCAP Foundation Vanguard Award, among others.

Gordonʼs most recent recording, Within These Gates of Mine, is the original soundtrack and film score for the 1920s silent film Within Our Gates by African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. His arrangement of “Bill Bailey,” from his CD Dreams of New Orleans, can be heard in the recent film Race, a biopic of track legend Jesse Owens.