Kurt Dietrich to discuss Wisconsin’s jazz history Nov. 18 for Ripon Historical Society

Kurt Dietrich, professor emeritus of music and former Barbara Baldwin DeFrees Chair in the Performing Arts at Ripon College, will discuss his work on the history of jazz in Wisconsin Thursday, Nov. 18, for the Ripon Historical Society. The program will begin at 7 p.m. in the historical society museum, 508 Watson St. It is free and open to the public with is handicap accessibility through the rear door. Masks will be mandatory to attend.

Dietrich will talk about his book Wisconsin Riffs: Jazz Profiles from the Heartland and his upcoming book about jazz legend Al Jarreau, a native of Milwaukee and a 1962 graduate of Ripon College. He also is the author of Duke’s ‘Bones: Ellington’s Great Trombonists, as well as articles for publications including Annual Review of Jazz Studies and Black Music Research Journal.

As a performer, he plays trombone and performed in the 1970s jazz rock band Matrix and on many jazz recordings. His son, Paul Dietrich, is a well-known a jazz trumpet player and composer in Wisconsin and currently conducts the Ripon College Jazz Band.

Wisconsin Riffs, published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, profiles more than 100 Wisconsin connected jazz artists. Amazon describes the book as “an extensive, upbeat compilation of Wisconsin’s jazz musicians.” Some musicians, like Bunny Berigan, Woody Herman, Les Paul and Al Jarreau, are well-known. Some of the musicians left Wisconsin to make their lives on the coasts and others such as Janet Planet, John Harmon and Ben Sidran are well-known to local audiences.

His current project is a biography of Al Jarreau (1940-2017.) Jarreau attended Badger Boys State, the American Legion’s mock government, at Ripon College as a high school student from Milwaukee. He then attended the college from 1958-1962. He became an internationally known jazz singer and musician. He received the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music, won seven Grammy Awards and many other international music awards and popular accolades. Ripon College presented Jarreau with an honorary doctorate of fine arts at its Commencement ceremony in 1988.

Wisconsin Riffs: Jazz Profiles from the Heartland will be for sale and can be autographed after the program.

The Ripon Historical Society is the oldest continually operating historical society in Wisconsin and is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. or by appointment.


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