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IUPUI Campus Center to represent Indianapolis' golden age of jazz during 2016 Indy Jazz Fest

Aug. 31, 2016

For one September day, the IUPUI Campus Center will stand in as a representative for Indianapolis's golden age of jazz, helping honor one of the city's musical icons in a daylong tribute to guitarist Wes Montgomery.

wes montgomery

Wes Montgomery's career and impact will be celebrated during a daylong tribute at the Campus Center. | PHOTO COURTESY OF INDY JAZZ FEST

The event is part of the 2016 Indy Jazz Fest, which runs Sept. 15 to 24. The Montgomery tribute will be Saturday, Sept. 17, from 1 to 8 p.m. The doors will open for the celebration at 12:30 p.m., featuring lobby concerts, exhibits, workshops and panel discussions that are free for attendees.

For the "Remembering Wes" tribute, the fourth-floor multipurpose room will be transformed into the Sunset Terrace, once a crown jewel among the Indiana Avenue jazz clubs. The Campus Center Theater will become Indy's Cotton Club, another long-lost city jazz club. And the whole facility will pulsate with music that recalls Montgomery's music, a combination of jazz and pop music that influenced generations of jazz guitarists even to the present.

Montgomery was one of the leading figures in the wave of music that put Indianapolis in the heart of the jazz world in the 1930s, '40s, '50s and '60s.

John Leslie "Wes" Montgomery was a self-taught guitarist renowned for his improvisation ability. He set a standard for guitarists that is still in vogue nearly five decades after his death at age 45 in 1968.

wes montgomery

Montgomery was part of the city's emergence as a center for jazz during the middle part of the 20th century, often at intimate jazz clubs along Indiana Avenue. | PHOTO COURTESY OF INDY JAZZ FEST

Montgomery also made his mark in the pop-music realm, which put his music in front of new audiences throughout the U.S. and the world. But he also was a part of his city, and his name lives on at one of the houses in IUPUI's Riverwalk Apartments and Wes Montgomery Park on the city's west side.

Five times during the 1960s, Montgomery was chosen the top guitarist by voters in DownBeat magazine polls. His guitar work influenced such artists as George Benson, Pat Martino, Larry Coryell, Lee Ritenour, John Scofield, Pat Matheny and Russell Malone. Two of those -- Martino and Malone -- are scheduled to perform in the Montgomery tribute. They will join a host of other notables:

  • Chuck Loeb (who has performed with Fourplay and Stan Getz)
  • Fareed Haque (has performed with Sting and Joe Henderson)
  • Royce Campbell (has performed with Henry Mancini, Marvin Gaye and Quincy Jones)
  • Will Matthews (has performed with the Count Basie Orchestra

The multipurpose room and the theater won't be the only Campus Center sites to be renamed for a day. The atrium stage will be called Al's British Lounge, hosting a series of free performances, including one by the IUPUI Jazz Ensemble at 3 p.m. The Commons Stage beside the food court will be named Club 440 for the tribute and will host performances including one by the IU Jazz Ensemble at 5:30 p.m.

Remembering Wes

Some of the nation's finest jazz musicians, particularly guitarists, will be featured Sept. 17 on Wes Montgomery Tribute Day, honoring the Indianapolis native who revolutionized a genre, bridging the worlds of jazz and pop music.

The jazz ensembles from IUPUI and IU will perform during separate free concerts during the day's activities in the Campus Center. Collegiate and high school performers are also scheduled to pay homage to Montgomery, a Grammy-winning artist.

The doors will open at 12:30 p.m., with performances running from 1 to 8 p.m.

Be sure to enjoy the musical celebration honoring one of the city's most memorable performers.

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