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Sunday, February 5, 2023 | 2pm
First Unitarian Church (536 Linton St, Cincinnati, OH 45219)


Back by popular demand, beloved Cincinnati-based saxophonist Rick VanMatre returns to the Jazz@First stage in a concert uniquely fusing the worlds of classical and jazz. VanMatre will join Phil DeGreg on a new arrangement of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue featuring Rick’s improvisatory take on the landmark composition as well as Phil’s virtuoso piano interpretation. Also featured will be Bill Dobbin’s Sonata for Soprano Sax and Piano which combines musical elements from contemporary classical vocabulary with jazz traditions. Rick and Phil will also perform their own compositions that will help to bridge the gap between these seemingly disparate sound worlds.


Jazz@First Series Sponsor: Al Harris



About the Artist: Rick VanMatre, saxophone

Rick VanMatre is one of the most exploratory saxophonists in the worlds of jazz, classical and progressive music and has presented concerts, jazz club performances, and orchestra concerti in the US, Europe, Israel, Brazil, China, Korea, Thailand and Australia. He is widely recognized for bringing a unique, identifiable voice to a variety of genres. In addition to recording with his own groups showcasing his compositions, he has also recorded as
featured jazz soloist with numerous ensembles like the PsychoAcoustic Orchestra, Kim Pensyl Ensemble, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra with Manhattan Transfer and John Pizzarelli, and New Third Stream Quartet. His diverse experience includes appearances with the most honored names in jazz such as the Duke Ellington Orchestra led by Mercer Ellington, and Woody Herman Orchestra led by Frank Tiberi, on an extended tour with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra led by Buddy Morrow, with contemporary composers like Roland Vazquez, Dave Matthews and Tim Hagans, and jazz greats like Frank Vincent, Dee Felice, Carmon DeLeone, Frank Proto, John McNeil and Gene Bertoncini. He has appeared with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, concert:nova, James Conlon’s Linton Series, and has commissioned concerti and premiered them with orchestras like the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, Sichuan Symphony Orchestra (China), Jeju Wind Orchestra (South Korea), New York Repertory Orchestra, Illinois Philharmonic and others. The Chicago Star wrote that “VanMatre’s art is without comparison; his technique exact, yet smooth, his expression poignant and personal,” and the Cincinnati Enquirer stated his “artistry was seamless, technically superb…musically inventive [and] effortless.”

VanMatre is Professor Emeritus of Jazz Studies and Saxophone at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and still teaches there on a part-time basis. Formerly as the conservatory’s Director of Jazz Studies, he was responsible for creating the MM in Jazz Studies and the DMA in Saxophone and establishing the Jazz Recording Studio. As conductor of the CCM Jazz Ensemble, he directed programs with artists like
Kenny Garrett, Slide Hampton, Joe Henderson, Ahmad Jamal, David Liebman, Joshua Redman and produced numerous CD recordings for Sea Breeze Records including Serenade in Blue which was described by Cadence magazine as a “necessary part of any big-band enthusiast's library”. In the field of broadcasting, he served as the on-air host and interviewer for the nationally syndicated radio series “Jazz - Live From the Hyatt.” VanMatre has been named “Best Jazz Musician” by Cincinnati Magazine, a “reed titan” by Midwest Jazz magazine, and the “Ernest N. Glover Outstanding Teacher” by CCM students. In 2018 he was inducted into the Cincinnati Jazz Hall of Fame. His undergraduate studies were at the College-Conservatory of Music and Berklee College of Music, and he received his MM from the Eastman School. VanMatre is an endorsing artist for Selmer Saxophones and D’Addario reeds.

Please visit his YouTube Channel and his website


About the Artist: Phil DeGreg


Phil DeGreg began playing the piano in his childhood and now performs as a jazz pianist internationally. His earliest jazz influences were Bud Powell and Bill Evans, but he is accomplished and comfortable in a wide range of jazz styles, ranging from mainstream to bebop to Brazilian jazz. A graduate of Yale and the University of North Texas, he toured with the Woody Herman Orchestra in the 1980’s, and has 10 CD’s to his credit as a leader. For 13 years he accompanied many national and international jazz artists in the house trio in Cincinnati’s famous Blue Wisp Jazz Club. He has been on staff with the renowned Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops since 1983, and has performed and taught in Europe and South America.


Phil DeGreg is the retired Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts study grants. In 2008 he was awarded a 4 month Fulbright Fellowship as a lecturer in Brazil.


His text “Jazz Keyboard Harmony” is a practical text for teaching jazz harmony for all musicians, and is used all over the world in universities and for private study.


Learn more about Phil DeGreg on his website

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