By: Soondos Mulla-Ossman ~Staff Writer~
“I can’t believe the season just passed,” Polina Bespalko told the Newswire with a mix of emotions on Monday. The Music Series, in which accomplished musicians come to the Xavier stage to perform, is drawing to a close for the year. The final performance, as many anticipate, will go out with a swinging, melodic bang.
As one of the most important figures in the jazz world for the past 20 years, Christian McBride has “one of the most extensive biographies,” Bespalko said. It’s so extensive, it doesn’t even fit into the program. To name two, he is the host of NPR Jazz Night in America and has five Grammys, but to Bespalko, the most remarkable thing he can do is touch everyone’s hearts.
“Everyone who comes to his show, everyone, never leaves disappointed. Positivity,” Bespalko continued, “is his number one priority. There cannot be a greater choice for the final performance.”
When Bespalko tries to book a season, she looks for traits in musicians that are “magnetic” to her. Because McBride is a host on NPR, his voice is smooth and immediately recognizable. Bespalko described him as charismatic and funny and said that audiences will leave with a “good feeling,” which is also the name of one of his albums.
While beginning to reflect on the Music Series as a whole, Bespalko expressed her hope to bring jazz back to Cincinnati.
“High-class jazz, the jazz you would hear at Newport, Jazz festivals, in Chicago, in Los Angeles,” Bespalko said.
Currently, regular jazz performances are difficult for younger students in Cincinnati to attend, since they are often exclusive to clubs only permitting people 21 and older. The jazz performances through the Music Series at Xavier are very accessible in comparison, open to families of all ages and affordable for Xavier students at $5 a ticket.
Bespalko first heard McBride in Louisville in 2014. She remembered feeling stunned.
“It’s not just because I loved the music,” Bespalko said “I had a really great time, and the audience were from people who were 3 to 85, and at some point everyone just got up and started dancing. … And I said to myself, I want this in Cincinnati. I need this in Cincinnati.”
McBride shares a “spirit” with Anat Cohen and Bill Charlap, a clarinetist and pianist, respectively, who both performed earlier in the semester.
“There’s always this really comfortable exchange involved with the audience, and the audience is grateful,” Bespalko said.
Accompanying McBride will be Emmet Cohen on piano and Dan Wilson on guitar.
Both are also highly accomplished musicians in their own right, creating the potential for an evening for which Bespalko is very excited.