October 25, 2013

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By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Jeremy Siskind's Finger-Songwriter Project will perform in concert Wednesday, Nov. 6, at 7:30 p.m. in Bucknell Hall at Bucknell University. The concert, which is free and open to the public, is part of the continuing Jazz at Bucknell series.

The jazz trio is led by award-winning pianist Jeremy Siskind, who was inspired by Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Josh Ritter, Lisa Hannigan and other folk singers to write his own songs.

His lyrics, which deal with love and loss, horror and heartbreak, are movingly delivered by vocalist Nancy Harms, best known for her work with trombonist Wycliffe Gordon. Harms sings with a steely intimacy that ushers a listener into the world of a piece, whether it be a haunting waltz like "One Art" or a spirited celebration like "Theme for a Sunrise."

Woodwind wizard Lucas Pino colors the music with whispering tenor work, mournful clarinet, and murmuring bass clarinet. A graduate of the Brubeck Institute and Juilliard, Pino plays with a sensitivity and muscular resolve that blend wondrously with Siskind's dark pianistic touch.

At age 26, Siskind is the winner of the Nottingham International Jazz Piano Competition, a second-place finisher in the Montreux Jazz Festival Solo Piano Competition, a two-time finalist for the American Pianist Association's Cole Porter Fellowship, and a two-time second-place finisher at the Phillips Jazz Competition. Recently named a Professor of Piano at Western Michigan University's School of Music, Siskind made a sold-out solo debut at Carnegie Hall in 2012, performing Debussy's Etudes in the first half and jazz improvisations in the second half.

As a composer, Siskind has received ASCAP's Young Jazz Composers Award and Downbeat Magazine's Student Music Award, and has twice traveled to Japan as the American representative in Yamaha's Junior Original Composition competition. A composer and clinician for Hal Leonard, Siskind's 2011 debut publication, Jazz Etude Inspirations, consisting of eight piano etudes inspired by jazz greats, sold out within minutes of his performance at last year's Music Teacher's National Association conference in New York City.

Siskind's 2012 CD release, Finger-Songwriter, has been hailed as "one of the best albums I've heard all year" by emusic.com's Dave Sumner, "one of the most remarkable recordings I've heard in a very long time" by the MinnPost's Pamela Espeland and "the most exciting musical project I've heard in a long time" by Andrea Carter of Jazz Police. His 2010 release, Simple Songs (for When the World Seems Strange), featuring Ted Poor, Chris Lightcap and Jo Lawry, was awarded four stars in a review from Downbeat, and appeared on three jazz critics' "Best CDs of 2010" features.  

A graduate of the Eastman School of Music (High Honors; degrees in Jazz Performance and Music Theory) with a Master's from Columbia University (degree in English and Comparative Literature), Siskind's primary teachers include Fred Hersch, Sophia Rosoff, Tamir Hendelman, Tony Caramia and Harold Danko. 

The Jazz at Bucknell series presents international modern masters and young visionaries, showcasing the entire tradition of jazz, from standards to the avant-garde, with an eye on artists who continue the innovative tradition of the music with their personal approaches to sound, style and composition.

The fall concert series concludes on Dec. 4 with the Bucknell Jazz Christmas concert, "A Jazz at Bucknell holiday," featuring swinging holiday favorites with Steve Rudolph, piano; Tony Micelli, vibraphone; Jonathan Ragonese, saxophone; and Phil Haynes, percussion. The free concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Bucknell Hall.

The spring concert schedule includes the Kate McGarry Duo on Jan. 29; the Eastman Jazz Quartet on Feb. 26; the Matt Mitchell Trio with Chris Speed on March 5; and Jason Moran and the Bandwagon (co-sponsored with the Weis Center) on April 17.