Bill Warfield, Lehigh University

Bill Warfield is always working on a new project. Coming off his latest release on the Grammy Award-winning label Planet Arts Records, the jazz trumpeter is in the process of developing his latest effort, an international collaboration of leading jazz musicians culminating in a tour starting at Lehigh’s Zoellner Arts Center.

Supported by a New Directions Fellowship from the College of Arts and Sciences, Warfield brings together Czechoslovakian guitarist Libor Smoldas and keyboardist Jakub Zomer and Danish saxophonist Jens Jensen. Saxophonist Glenn Cashman, head of jazz studies at Colgate University, will round out the core group. Warfield says the Core-tet, as he calls it, will also ask local artists to perform with them as part of an international jazz tour scheduled for 2015. 

“We’re looking to have an international exchange of musicians. For instance, when we’re in Prague, there’s a great drummer, so we’ll ask him to play. All the European guys want to come here and play, and we want to go there and play.” 

The Core-tet project stems from Warfield’s trips to Europe, where he has performed on many occasions. Warfield says he was in Prague, Czech Republic, performing with a group of musicians with whom he had never collaborated. In an effort to find artistic common ground, he took classic Miles Davis and reinterpreted it. 

“These guys just shred this stuff,” he says. “They use the tune as a reference point, but it becomes a free association of musical ideas based on and around the motive of the tune. By the end of my time with them, we were on stage and the music was on fire. It was just the way I wanted it to be. We knew there was something special, and we had to make it happen.”

“This tour is a great experience because it allows us to expand our horizons, to work with musicians we’ve never worked with before and apply this concept of doing tunes that everybody knows and being as free as we can with it. It makes the logistics of putting it together very easy. Everybody knows Bye Bye Blackbird, but the end product is remarkable.”

The Core-tet will perform at Zoellner on Feb. 28, Colgate University on March 1 and New York City, culminating with a recording to be released by Planet Arts Records. Jeff “Tain” Watts, who holds the unique distinction of being the only musician to appear on every Grammy Award-winning jazz record by both Wynton and Branford Marsalis, will join the group at Zoellner. Beyond the American performances, Warfield envisions performances in Lisbon, Portugal, where he will be a guest lecturer in the spring of 2015, and at a jazz festival in Morocco.

“The great thing about jazz is that when you start plugging in these cultural influences, you don’t know what you are going to get. It’s risk taking and it’s exciting and you end up in some places you wouldn’t expect to be. That’s what attracted me to jazz in the first place.