Waco six-string peers of veteran guitarist Kenny Frazier will pay tribute to him the best way they know how Monday night, performing a concert heavy on guitar-driven jazz at McLennan Community College, the place where the now-retired Frazier taught for more than 30 years.
The “Concert for Kenny,” held at 7:30 p.m. at MCC’s Music and Theatre Arts Theater, features the performance of the Waco Jazz Guitar Collective and the MCC Student Guitar Ensemble, groups representing MCC Music Industry Careers faculty members and students, both sets of people with whom Frazier worked in addition to his professional gigging.
For organizer, MCC guitar instructor and jazz guitarist Jon Fox, music led and the man and memories followed. He had arranged some jazz pieces for guitar ensemble, a passion when he was an undergrad music student at Wayne State University, and found himself thinking about who could play and where.
His thoughts eventually migrated to Frazier, who retired from MCC in 2005 and still performs. Waco native Frazier, a go-to guitarist for the late Texas fiddler great Johnny Gimble in his Texas Swing band, built a considerable reputation in Waco and beyond for his fluid jazz stylings, his easygoing manner, teaching ability and general knack for playing any music thrown at him.
“For a town of Waco’s size, it has a surprising number of professional- level jazz guitarists, and Kenny was a big part of that,” Fox said.
Frazier, 77, continues to play at Waco venues with such jazz partners as Greg Bashara, Dick Gimble and Rob Page, and Fox felt he’d make a worthy subject for a concert of guitar jazz. Throw in the MCC connection for both Frazier and much of the Waco Jazz Guitar Collective, coupled to MCC’s 50th-anniversary year, and this was a concert that needed to happen.
Fox arranged six pieces for the collective — Fox, Clark Nauert, Pat Kelly, Pat McKee and Evan Klaras on guitar, Dick Gimble on bass and Jon Kutz on drums.
The shift from his last project, several big-band arrangements, brought him back to his graduate student days at Wayne State University, when he was writing and arranging for guitar ensemble. “It’s something near and dear to my heart,” he said.
Monday’s concert features arrangments of “This Can’t Be Love,” “Emily,” “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” “Angel Eyes,” “I’ll Remember April” and Fox’s own “Blues for Kenny.”
“Concert for Kenny” is a second concert dedicated to the Waco guitarist, the first coming in his retirement year and featuring guitar wizard Tommy Emmanuel. “That was my going-away present,” Frazier chuckled.
The concert takes place in the space where the student guitar ensemble frequently performs, a smaller space than the nearby Ball Performing Arts Center but one that Frazier said has acoustics well matched to the guitar.
“Concert for Kenny”
By the Waco Jazz Guitar Collective and McLennan Community College Student Guitar Ensemble
Performance: 7:30 p.m. Monday at MCC’s Music and Theatre Arts Theater.