Jeffrey Kunkel's Jazz Opens Cali School Director's Series on September 21

The Cali School's inaugural season of the John J. Cali School of Music Director’s Series highlights the sabbatical research of two piano faculty. From a concert premiering music from Jeffrey Kunkel’s new recording Meu Coração Brasileiro to Ruth Rendleman's original improvisations on the Bach Goldberg Variations, this season promises to be an exciting celebration of the piano.

September 21, at 4 pm
For the inaugural recital, the Cali School’s Coordinator of Jazz Studies, composer/pianist Jeffrey Kunkel, will celebrate the release of his new recording Meu Coração Brasileiro (, which was recorded in Rio de Janeiro in November 2011 and May 2012. The recording features an outstanding group of Brazilian musicians performing Dr. Kunkel’s original compositions. Although primarily instrumental Brazilian jazz based in the styles of bossa nova, samba, and MPB, some of the compositions feature lyrics composed by MSU colleague Holli Ross, the Cali School’s instructor in the area of vocal jazz, and by Vika Barcellos and Fernando Corona, Dr. Kunkel’s long distance musical collaborators who are also featured on the recording.

For this performance, Dr. Kunkel will be joined by two of the Rio musicians featured on the recording, bassist Alex Rocha, and drummer Haroldo Mauro Jr., who also served as co-producer for the recording. Equally at home in a variety of musical styles, Alex Rocha is one of the busiest musicians on the Rio music scene, playing acoustic and electric bass for a variety of well-known artists, most notably for many years with the late vocalist Emilio Santiago. Like Dr. Kunkel, his good friend Haroldo Mauro, who is also a very gifted pianist and composer, is most active as a jazz educator, teaching in the area of Jazz and Popular Music at the University of Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO). To round out the ensemble for this concert, Dr. Kunkel has invited two marvelous young performers to join the veteran rhythm section: Leala Cyr (vocals/trumpet), who is well known for her role in modern-day jazz legend Esperanza Spalding’s “Radio Music Society” band, as well as for her participation in the breathtaking sounds of the “Rose and the Nightingale” ensemble; and Kevin Bene (flutes/saxophone), a former summer camp student of Dr. Kunkel’s who just recently received his Master’s degree in Jazz from the Manhattan School of Music and is now working on the New York music scene.

February 22, at 4 pm
Ruth Rendleman will present "The Pianist as a Multi-Faceted Musician." Part I will feature the pianist as Soloist, Interpreter, Composer and Improviser as Dr. Rendleman performs original improvisations to the Bach Goldberg Variations. Part II will feature the pianist as a Collaborative Artist, featuring tenor Stephen Oosting in the Gustav Mahler's transcendent Rückert-Lieder. Part III will present the pianist as a Chamber Musician, featuring her piano colleagues David Witten, Mark Pakman, Steven Ryan, Lisa Yui, and Soyeon Kim in a performance of the Samuel Barber's pyrotechnical Souvenirs for piano, four hands.