Saturday, July 20, 2024

Jazzfest honors conductor

Plattsburgh State’s Jazzfest is an evening program of bands performing lively jazz music with a special tribute to former conductor and director Rick Davies.

The event will be held in the Giltz Auditorium in Hawkins Hall, May 6 at 7:30 p.m.

This marks the 40th year PSUC will be hosting of the festival, and will feature the PSUC Jazz Ensemble, Mambo Combo and the Thugtet performing all types of jazz fusion songs.

Davies passed away last winter after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. Conductor and director Herman Matlock said Davies was his best friend.

“He was a deep musician, someone you wouldn’t notice because he was a quiet, gentle person,” Matlock said.

From 1977 to 1986, Matlock had a large role in the festival for nine years and joined in the events backwhen it was in its third year.

“Seeing the kids work on style and pitch in rehearsal and watching them grow since September is my favorite part,” he said.

The students performing in today’s program have worked all year on this event from rehearsal to perfecting their sounds and preparing the music they will play in Davies’ honor. Matlock said that all of the music played by his band, the Thugtet, will be recorded on a CD as a tribute to Davies.

“This event is one of the neat things that we are able to do.” Associate Professor of Music, Jo Ellen Miano said. “Bringing in music that is experienced everyday and bring it on campus to enrich our cultural lives.”

Miano said Jazzfest is filled with good tunes and great performances from students.

The bands featured in this program will be playing a number of songs with improvisation solos thrown in the mix by various student soloists.

The Mambo Combo will be performing music from jazz artists such as Jeff Lorberg and Oliver Nelson. While the Jazz Ensemble will play the music of Dennis DeBlazio and Slide Hampton.

The Thugtet will perform five songs that are all Davies’ original songs. Miano said one of her favorites was “Baile De Amor,” and watching him onstage performing a trombone solo with his infectious energy is a fond memory of hers.

PSUC senior music and art major Ryan Mahoney will play piano for the Mambo Combo.

“It’s good to still honor jazz in this day in age,” Mahoney said. “It’s been almost a hundred years since the initial conception of jazz, and it’s good that it’s still going strong.”
Mahoney said Davies was an instructor in a class of his during his freshman year.

“He was really great to talk to, and he helped me out a lot,” Mahoney said.

Matlock said Davies was a big part of the event, and the tribute to his late friend means a lot to him.

“My favorite memory of Rick is his response to our director at the time when she asked for a particular phrase,” he said. “The director mentioned she wanted mystery and terror, and Rick simply said ‘scarify’ it.”

Matlock said he hopes people will come to the event and celebrate the way Davies would’ve wanted them to celebrate.

Tickets are $3 for PSUC students, $6 for faculty, staff, non-SUNY students and seniors. General admission is $9 and are currently available at, at the door and Angell College Center desk.

Email Shania Savastio at

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