Jazz at the Sandbar is designed to provide UNO Jazz Studies students an opportunity to get real life experience performing with respected professional musicians in front of a live audience. The series is presented on Wednesday nights during the fall and spring semesters and features a different respected jazz artist each week. It also provides a medium in which students exercise their improvisational skills and gives them the rare opportunity to work with jazz masters.

Pianist Ellis Marsalis kicks off Jazz at the Sandbar on October 4th!


Education icon Ellis Marsalis kicks off the new season of Jazz at the Sandbar. Marsalis is the premier modern jazz pianist of New Orleans and the father of a generation of contemporary jazz musicians who are considered the international leaders of the current scene. Ellis Marsalis returns to the University of New Orleans where he headed Jazz Studies as the first endowed chair of the department in the 1990s.


March 8: Trumpeter Wendell Brunious

Born into a Louisiana Creole Family, Wendell Brunious began playing trumpet at age 11 following in a lineage of family jazz musicians. Wendell´s father, John Brunious, played trumpet and piano, and arranged for Billy Eckstein and Cab Calloway. Wendell´s uncle, Willie Santiago, was one of the first guitar players recorded, and at one time worked with the legendary Buddy Bolden.

 Trumpeter Wendell Brunious studied at Julliard before playing with Paul Barbarin and Danny Baker. In the 1960’s, Brunious sang in Chief John and the Mahogany Hall Stompers, a group in which his father was also a member. In 1976, Brunious substituted for his father in Albert "Papa" French's band for Mardi Gras, and by 1979 was playing regularly at Preservation Hall with Kid Thomas Valentine.  He has remained a regular performer at Preservation Hall into the 2000s and performs with the likes of Dr. Michael White, Chris Barber, Don Vappie and the Pfister Sisters.


March 15: Pianist Amina Figarova

Amina Figarova is without doubt one of the most productive jazz composers and talented jazz piano players from Europe. Amina began playing piano as a child in Baku, Azerbaijan and has since travelled the world, studying as a classical concert pianist at the Baku Conservatory and jazz performance at the Rotterdam Conservatory. She has toured extensively, developing a tight-knit ensemble that has attained a distinctive and inimitable voice by concentrating on all-original repertoire for almost 18 years. The Amina Figarova Sextet has triumphed at the main stage of the Newport Jazz Festival, been invited repeatedly to New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, won critical and audience acclaim in Chicago, Detroit, Paris, Amsterdam — and of course New York, where she resides.  She has worked with the likes of James Moody, Larry Coryell, Winard Harper, Nathan Davis and New Orleans musicians vocalist Kim Prevost and guitarist Bill Solley. Amina's pieces strike a perfect tone, employing genuinely beautiful harmonizations, to capture fleeting thoughts that accompany those precious moments when the puzzling jostle of daily existence comes into unexpected but deeply satisfying sync. Her’s crisp, light finger-dancing across the piano keys effortlessly displays her dynamic range and technical skills all within one moment. Figarova’s style breathes new life into the knotty, post-bebop jazz developed in the 1960s.

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March 22: Drummer Johnny Vidacovich

Born and bred in New Orleans, Johnny Vidacovich has the city's unique, syncopated backbeat running in his veins. From French Quarter clubs to the big stages, he has shared his talents with greats like New Orleans' "Tan Canary" Johnny Adams, Professor Longhair, and Mose Allison, and as a member of Astral Project. The seminal New Orleans contemporary jazz group, Astral Project has been taking its audiences to higher planes of reality for several decades. Astral Project started out in the '70s, jamming at the venerable Absinthe House on Bourbon Street, with Bobby McFerrin often sitting in. Gigs at Snug Harbor and the New Orleans Jazz Fest won them a devoted local following, which has expanded to international acclaim. Vidacovich continued to gig and record with other musicians until he became the most sought after drummer in the city of New Orleans. It is in improvisation that his abilities show to greatest advantage. Always sensitive to the shifting sands of jazz, the drum maestro may mix it up with reggae, bebop, street beat, and blues rhythms in the course of one tune, as he follows the lead of one of his collaborators. He is the quintessential New Orleans jazz drummer, with all the exuberance and skill befitting one who grew up in the birthplace of jazz.


March 29: Guitarist Mahmoud Chouki 

Mahmoud Chouki, otherwise known as Mood, is a master guitarist and composer. His performances and compositions consist of fusing oriental, flamenco, jazz and other electric styles of music from around the world. Mood began his studies at the Conservatory of Larache in northern Morocco from the age of eight and eventually completed at the national conservatory in Rabat. He continued with additional enrichment by taking master classes with musicians, such as Jorje Cardoso, Antonello Lexi, Tim Williams, Francisco Ortiz and Juan Fallo.

Mood began performing at the age of fourteen throughout Morocco and represented Morocco in the United Arab Emirates at the Young Arab Talent Festival. In 2002, Mood toured the south of Spain with the Guitar Ensemble of Morocco, winning first prize in the International Guitar Competition in St. Esteban del Puerto. This gave Mood the jump-start to make several collaborations with other musicians. His projects led him to travel and perform with key figures in the music world and with fusion groups, including at the Rencontre Orient Occident at Chateau Mercier in Switzerland and the Magic Lutes Concert with Hugh de Corson and his Symphonic Orchestra in Qatar and Bahrain. Mood has also worked in film, including “Lola” by Nebil Ayouch and been a featured artists on TEDtalks.

April 5: Pianist Michael Pellera

After studying at Berklee College of Music, Mr. Pellera has been a jazz educator serving New Orleans since 1989.  He taught jazz piano and improvisation for fifteen years at Loyola University before joining NOCCA’s faculty in 2002. In the last 25 years, he has lived in New Orleans and New York, giving his music a unique perspective that draws freely from the influences of the two cities.  As a composer he has created a body of work that encompasses modern jazz harmony, indigenous New Orleans rhythms, and elements of the classic American songbook of the 30’s & 40’s. He has released two critically acclaimed CD’s of his jazz compositions.  He has performed with a multitude of great jazz artists, including Wynton Marsalis, Buddy Rich, Branford Marsalis, Bobby McFerrin, and Harry Connick Jr.  Some of his former students include Brian Blade, Jon Cowherd, Jonathan Batiste, Troy Andrews, Rich Vogel and others who have created distinguished careers for themselves with artists like Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Wynton Marsalis, Liz Wright, Joni Mitchell and Lenny Kravitz. Tonight he will be paying tribute to legendary pianist Thelonious Monk.

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Thank you to all that came and supported Jazz @ the Sandbar this fall. We will all meet again the first Wednesday in March 2017! Have a Jazzy Holiday season one and all!

Photo Credits: Missy Bowen, Don Keller & AL Kennedy