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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

SU, CNY Jazz Central honor memory of local icons with concert of new music April 15

Program pays tribute to saxophonists Gerry Niewood, Joe Romano, and Sal Nistico

March 27, 2012, by Rob Enslin

Joe Riposo, director of SU's jazz studies program and Morton Schiff Jazz Ensemble
Joe Riposo, director of SU's jazz studies program and Morton Schiff Jazz Ensemble
Three new pieces by area composers are the focus of a joint concert by the CNY Jazz Orchestra and Syracuse University’s Morton Schiff Jazz Ensemble. The concert, part of CNY Jazz Central’s Big Band Cabaret Series and The CNY Humanities Corridor—an interdisciplinary partnership with SU, Cornell University and the University of Rochester—will be held Sunday, April 15, at 5 p.m. in the Regency Ballroom of the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel and Conference Center (801 University Ave.). Additional support comes from SU’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Adult tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door; student admission is $10 with I.D. For tickets and more information, contact CNY Jazz Central at 315-479-5299 or

The concert includes world premieres of “Through a Child’s Eyes” by Joe Riposo, a saxophonist who directs the jazz studies program and the Morton Schiff Jazz Ensemble in the Setnor School of Music in SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts; “Roman Notes” by John LaBarbera, a former Cornell music professor (now at the University of Louisville), considered one of jazz’s pre-eminent trumpeters; and “Gerry’s Timepiece” by Mike Conrad, a master’s candidate at the Eastman School of Music, where he plays lead trombone in the Eastman Jazz Band.

“The music recalls, celebrates and demonstrates the stylistic legacies of three jazz icons from Central New York,” says Larry Luttinger, founder and executive director of CNY Jazz Central. “'Roman Notes’ is a tribute to saxophonist Joe Romano, whose career included major stints with Lionel Hampton, Buddy Rich and Frank Sinatra. 'Through a Child’s Eyes’ is an ode to Woody Herman saxophonist Sal Nistico, with whom Joe Riposo worked at the Three Rivers Resort [in Oswego County] in the 1970s and ‘80s. And ‘Gerry’s Timepiece’ is an elegy to saxophonist Gerry Niewood, a longtime member of Chuck Mangione’s band who died tragically in the 2009 Buffalo plane crash.”

Luttinger says he is especially proud to collaborate with Riposo, whom he considers an icon in his own right. “Joe is a local treasure,” he adds, rattling off Riposo’s list of credentials, which includes work with Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, the McGuire Sisters and others. “In fact, Joe was largely responsible for last year’s collaboration at SU with saxophonist David Liebman."

The CNY Jazz Orchestra, directed by Bret Zvacek
The CNY Jazz Orchestra, directed by Bret Zvacek
The first half of the April 15 concert will feature Riposo and the Morton Schiff Jazz Ensemble performing the aforementioned pieces. During intermission, Joe Carello, saxophonist and director of the City of Syracuse’s Stan Colella All-Star Band, will be honored with CNY Jazz’s “Jazz Educator of the Year Award.” Afterward, the CNY Jazz Orchestra, led by music director Bret Zvacek, will perform cuts from its album “Then, Now, and Again” (CNY Jazz Records, 2008) and from its standard repertoire.

Gregg Lambert, Dean’s Professor of the Humanities and founding director of The SU Humanities Center in The College of Arts and Sciences, administers The CNY Humanities Corridor.

“Despite its long history with Central New York, jazz is anything but a museum piece,” he says. “This concert, involving more than three dozen musicians of various ages and backgrounds, proves that jazz is very much a living, breathing art form. This is especially true in the academy, where jazz is popular with students and scholars alike.”

Lambert adds that the commissions are part of The CNY Humanities Corridor’s Musicology/Music History Faculty Working Group. Copies of scores and parts, along with program information, are available at all three participating universities.

The SU Humanities Center, founded in 2008, fosters public engagement in the humanities, and is home to The CNY Humanities Corridor; The Mellon Visiting Collaborator and Jeanette K. Watson Distinguished Visiting Professorship programs; the HC Mini-Seminar and Syracuse Symposium Seminar series; and other research initiatives, annual fellowships and public programming.

CNY Jazz Central, established in 1996, is the primary year-round provider of jazz presentations for the public and for schools across Central and Upstate New York. Its growing list of programs includes the CNY Jazz Orchestra Big Band Club dates, Scholastic Jazz Jams, Northeast Jazz & Wine Festival, Blue Rain ECOfest, Jazz Vespers Series, SummerJazz Workshop, Jazz in the City, the Black History Month and Jimmy Van Heusen Cabarets and Syracuse Parks and Recreation Stan Colella All-Star Big Band.