The extraordinary musical life of Wycliffe Gordon 

High Goals, Smart Chops

"Sometimes, the young kids get it and sometimes they don't," says jazz trombonist and educator Wycliffe Gordon.

"Eventually, most of them do. I've been fortunate. [When I was young], I wanted to play fast, loud, and high. I wanted to learn to do all those things. And I did and I still can. But I have learned the importance of being able to tell a story. I try to pass that on to the students as information they can take or leave."

The Georgia-born, New York-based Gordon sounds like a seasoned baseball coach doing a bit as a college professor: cool, sagely, empathetic, and experienced. He will have the chance to work with both pro musicians and young up-and-comers in Charleston during Piccolo Spoleto's Blues/Jazz Series kickoff this weekend. He and his combo are scheduled to do "Sunset Serenade" with his quartet and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra at the U.S. Custom House on Fri. May 22.

His quartet features Ehud Asherie on piano, Herman Burney on bass, and Charleston's own Quentin Baxter on drums. They'll do five pieces with CSO members, including "Basement Street Blues," "Stormy Weather," "Can't Get Started," an original composition titled "Somebody New," and a few surprises.

The quartet also participates in an event called "All That Jazz: A Battle of the Best High School Jazz Bands in the Lowcountry" at the Custom House on Sat. May 23 from 7-10 p.m. The showcase opens with the quartet, followed by five of the tri-county's top high school jazz bands and the Piccolo Spoleto All-Star High School Jazz Band.

"It's not a competition; it's a showcase of some of the high school students who will be presenting some of their music," says Gordon.

This is a terrifically jazzy kick-off for Piccolo's jazz and family events. —T. Ballard Lesemann

Sunset Serenade Piccolo Spoleto Free

May 22 at 8 p.m. U.S. Custom House, 200 East Bay St. (843) 724-7305

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