Jazzing ol’ Libby

By By Christopher Wallace

By Christopher Wallace

The U’s two jazz ensembles will host guest musician Jim Cullum tonight to bring an evening of big band and DixieLand jazz to Libby Gardner Concert Hall.

Jim Cullum is co-host of the Public Radio international show “Riverwalk Jazz” and an accomplished cornetist in his own right.

He got his start the way most jazz musicians do — memorizing the records of jazz legends like Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke and Jelly Roll Morton.

Cullum bought his first cornet for $7 from a pawnshop across the street from his family’s grocery store, along with a booklet titled How to Play the Cornet.

The Jim Cullum Jazz Band, an acoustic septet, has been performing for years at Cullum’s club, The Landing, in San Antonio.

For more than 35 years, Cullum has been uncovering and performing material from the American jazz music of the 1920s and 1930s. He is a recognized figure in the world of jazz as a performer and critic.

“We get guest artists quite a bit,” said Brian Booth, one of the bandleaders. “It’s always a good experience for students to rub shoulders with guys who have been making it for a while.”

Though the group won’t be performing directly with Cullum, the U’s second big band will begin tonight’s concert with a sextet of big band standards, including Rob McConnell’s arrangement of “Louisiana” and Sandy Mestico’s “Smack Dab in the Middle.”

Cullum will take the stage next with “Doc” Miller’s Salt City Saints, a local, authentic New Orleans jazz band whose repertoire mainly consists of tunes from the early 1900s.

Following their set, the U’s first big band will play three solo tunes before being joined by Cullum on cornet along with Jerry Floor on clarinet and Shannon Roberts on trombone for three final numbers, including “Bugle Call Rag” and “Bill Bailey.”

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Libby Gardner Concert Hall. Tickets are $3 for students at the door and $7 for the general public.