MAY 30 | 6:30–9:30PM | Smith Family Chapel
Church on Monday Featuring Elias Haslanger and Dr. James Polk
Native Texan and Austin resident Elias Haslanger has carved a unique and distinguished place in jazz history as a saxophonist, composer, and band leader. He has performed, recorded, and toured with many world-class artists including Ellis Marsalis, Maynard Ferguson, Christopher Cross, Asleep at the Wheel, Alejandro Escovedo, Charlie Hunter, Sheryl Crow, Doyle Bramhall II, Grupo Fantasma, The Four Tops, and The Temptations, among many others.
He has also served as a guest artist/lecturer at universities around the nation. Mentored by the legendary saxophonists Harvey Pittel and Dick Oatts, Elias began to explore the instrument’s vast potential by studying saxophone at the University of Texas and then at the Manhattan School of Music. His interest in writing music culminated in a Master’s Degree in Composition at Texas State University (TSU) in San Marcos.
Another Native Texan Dr. James Polk from a family gene pool virtually overflowing with piano players, including both parents, his sister and an aunt, James came to the piano relatively late in his youth. After being initiated into a life of music as an eight year old, violinist, James soon gladly changed to the saxophone, only to discover in middle school, his band director needed trombone players. So James switched his attention to mastering the trombone in high school and college. By the time he had finished undergraduate degree in 1963, James was already a professional musician. But he had had enough of the trombone and decided to marry his family heritage and his own musical talent to the piano. His decision not only kept alive his family's tradition, but gave birth to one of the finest blues and jazz keyboard artists to come out of the Texas music scene in the last half century.
In his last year at Huston-Tillotson University he organized the “James Polk and the Brothers” band. The band was renown for spotlighting fine musicians, such as Martin Banks and W.C. Clark, as well as soulful singer, Angela Strehli. More notably he was featured with the Ray Charles Orchestra on recordings, such as “Brother Ray Is At It Again” (1980), “The Spirit of Christmas” (1985); and on the Grammy nominated “Ain't It So” (1979) and “Wish You Were Here Tonight” (1983). Dr. Polk is currently associated with the Dr. James Polk Academy of Arts and Technology and the Austin Jazz Workshop. His most recently formed jazz ensemble, Centerpeace, which performs regularly in Austin is made up of young jazz musicians who see him as their leader, mentor and friend.
Photo by Todd V. Wolfs