The 8th annual UCF-Orlando Jazz Festival on March 20-21 will feature Grammy winner Catherine Russell, pianist David Hazeltine and other performances.

The festival’s opening-night concert at the Nicholson School of Communication Auditorium will be highlighted by Russell, who has performed and recorded with David Bowie, Paul Simon, Steely Dan and other stars. Individually, Russell has recorded five CDs and won a Grammy in 2012 for her appearance as a featured artist on the soundtrack for the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire.”

The vocalist was born into a musical family. Her father was Louis Armstrong’s longtime musical director, and her mother was a bassist/guitarist/vocalist who attended Julliard and performed with several groups. Her next performance after leaving the UCF is at Carnegie Hall the following week.

Opening up for Russell will be the UCF All Star High School Jazztet. The group will be made up of select high school musicians who compete for the opportunity to perform at the festival. The band will be coached by the UCF jazz faculty for two days culminating in the festival performance.

The second night of the UCF festival will be kicked off by The Jazz Professors, who will be playing the music of composer Johnny Mandel. In 2010, the Jazz Professors recorded the album Live from the UCF-Orlando Jazz Festival, which reached the Top 20 on JazzWeek.  The band’s second recording Do That Again rose to No. 6 on the national jazz charts, and was No. 39 in the top 100 jazz albums for 2014.

The band is made up of Jeff Rupert, UCF’s director of jazz studies; Richard Drexler,  who teaches jazz bass; Per Danielsson, who teaches jazz piano; Michael Wilkinson, jazz trombone faculty member; and Marty Morell, who teaches jazz drum set.

Concluding the festival will be The David Hazeltine Trio, with Hazeltine on piano, David Wong on bass, and Jason Tiemann on drums.

Hazeltine, who made his professional debut at age 13, has performed with Charles McPherson, Ed Thigpen, Eddie Harris, Chet Baker and others. Currently he is on the faculty at State University of New York at Purchase.

Both Russell and Hazeltine have been featured on musician Marian McPartland’s NPR radio program.

“We strive to bring artists of the highest caliber to the UCF campus, ones that are rarely, if, ever performing in the region,” Rupert said. “Artists and collaborations of this nature are unique and profound, and we are gratified to present Catherine Russell and David Hazeltine – who both swing with authority – to Orlando.”

The UCF-Orlando Jazz Festival begins both nights at 8 p.m. Tickets each night are $20 or free for students with a current ID.

For more information and tickets, go to