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Jazz Ensemble Readies for Show

Tanisha Tolliver
Tanisha Tolliver

When it comes time to plan a concert for the Lander University Jazz Ensemble, associate professor of music Robert Gardiner has two goals: entertaining his audience and challenging his musicians. The group's Thursday, Dec. 8, show, he thinks, will do both.

The program includes not only standards like "In the Mood," by Joe Garland; "Rockabye River," by Duke Ellington; "Mary Ann," by Ray Charles; "Jeru," by Gerry Mulligan, "St. Louis Blues," by W.C. Handy; "Hay Burner," by Sammy Nestico; "Cry Me A River" by Arthur Hamilton and "Why Don't You Do Right," by Joe McCoy, but also "Sun Goddess," popularized by Earth, Wind and Fire; Steely Dan's "Josie" and Carlos Santana's "Soul Sacrifice."

Gardiner said the concert will have "tons of variety." His personal favorite is the blues-drenched "Rockabye River." He praised Ellington, calling him "one of the greatest composers to ever live."

In some ways, said Gardiner, it will be the most difficult show the ensemble has done in the nine years he has been director. He is confident that his musicians will be up to the challenge, asserting that "this is the most talented group I've had since I've been here."

Featured vocalist Tanisha Tolliver, who will perform with the ensemble for the fifth and final time, singing "Why Don't You Do Right" and "Cry Me A River," is a prime example of what Gardiner means.

A music major from Greer who will graduate in December, Tolliver sang the national anthem at the South Carolina 3-A state championship basketball game in Columbia in 2007, and has sung before large audiences in Charlotte and elsewhere as well.

A composer in the genre of rhythm and blues, who has also performed with the Lander University Singers and Old Main Singers, Tolliver hopes to make a name for herself as a solo artist. Her goal, she said, is "to record a great single that could be played on the radio."

Tolliver said she appreciates the opportunity the jazz ensemble has given her "to learn and grow as a musician." She will have another opportunity to distinguish herself as a performer when the group takes the stage of the Josephine B. Abney Cultural Center Auditorium, to begin its 8 p.m. show.

The concert is free and open to the public.