In a Rhythm

UWEC’s Jazz Ensemble again named among best

Matt Ledger |

YOU CAN’T TELL BY LOOKING AT THEM, BUT THOSE DOGS CAN PLAY A MEAN JAZZ FLUTE. UWEC’s lauded Jazz Ensemble I, kickin’ it in the woods.

UW-Eau Claire’s Jazz Ensemble I has, for the sixth time, brought home the Down Beat Award for Best College Jazz Ensemble. Down Beat is a national contemporary music publication that focuses on jazz, rock, and blues. The Down Beat Awards are akin to the Grammys of educational music, says Robert Baca, director of jazz studies at UWEC, and winning one is the highest possible honor a college jazz program can achieve.

The colleges that usually win the award are far larger than UWEC, with some of them sporting graduate programs and full-time faculty members specializing in jazz. Baca says that Jazz Ensemble I’s win is a direct result of the incredible middle school and high school jazz programs in the area. “A lot of our students come out of those programs,” he says, “and we become benefactors of their greatness.”

Jazz Ensemble I celebrated the release of the CD that won them the award, Jazz in Clear Water – Soul Searching, on April 29 with a show at Hass Fine Arts featuring internationally renowned trombonist Jiggs Whigham and songs from the ensemble’s next CD, which began production in the wee hours of May 13.

“We love to do them late at night,” says Baca. “After 10, the day is done and our attitudes are relaxed enough where our creative side can really come out.”

To get your hands on Jazz in Clear Water – Soul Searching, which Baca says features the widest selection of jazz found on any of Jazz Ensemble I’s last 14 CDs, head over to the Jazz Shop at