In the music biz, friendships are often formed between two musicians when they have enormous respect for the other's talent.
Torff, the director of jazz and popular music at Fairfield University, has invited his new friend Knuffke to join him at a Spring Jazz Concert Thursday, April 25, at the university's Gonzaga Auditorium.
Featured will be Fairfield University's Jazz Ensemble, directed by Torff, and the university's Gospel Choir, directed by Maurice Wiley.
"I met Brian in January when I did a gig at the Westport Arts Center, and we hit it off," Knuffke recalled.
Knuffke was performing there with the Matt Wilson Quartet, of which he is a featured member. Torff had arranged the booking for the arts center.
On the program for Thursday's concert are such jazz gems as "Take Five" in honor of Dave Brubeck; "Caravan," by Duke Ellington, performed in a ska style; "Perdido," by Juan Tizol; "St. Thomas," by Sonny Rollins; "Hot 'Lanta," by the Allman Brothers; and "My Thunder" and "North Side Shuffle," two original compositions by Torff.
Primarily a self-taught musician, Knuffke said he ventured from his home state of Colorado to New York City in 2005 -- and has been working regularly since then.
"For a musician, the place to be is in New York, or at least somewhere on the East Coast. I felt pretty isolated in Colorado," he added.
Shortly after arriving in New York, he struck up a conversation with jazz great Ornette Coleman, whom he met at a concert, he said. That led to a one-year mentorship with Coleman, during which Knuffke studied improvisation with the noted saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter and composer. Art Lande and Ron Miles are also improvisation masters with whom he studied.
Knuffke leads several of his own groups, including the Kirk Knuffke Quartet and Trio, which play at venues throughout the region. As a leader, he has three recordings available through the Cleanfeed and No Business labels. With pianist Jesse Stacken, he has recorded three CDs for Denmark's noted Steeplechase label.
As a member of the Matt Wilson Quartet, Knuffke said he tours the United States and frequently does three- or four-day residencies at colleges and universities, performing and offering master classes.
"Giving me great satisfaction at the moment is seeing how my career is constantly building ... snowballing. I love these little tours we go on and being on college campuses through the country. I love sharing ... teaching."
When not on the road, Knuffke can often be found practicing in his home studio.
Doesn't that bother the neighbors? "Actually, I live in an apartment in Brooklyn, in a really big house. In the other apartments are three pianists and a cellist. So no one does any complaining."
The Jazz Ensemble features Chris Finelli on trumpet; Michael Mauro, Amanda Ocasio and Alexis Ellis on saxophones; Jenna Taylor on flute; guest Arthur Ashman on trombone; Robby Schwartz on piano; John Domenico and Jamie Debicella on guitar; Brian Torff on bass; and Chuck DeFilippo and DJ Horstmann on drums. Student leader is Jenna Taylor.
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Fairfield University's Gonzaga Auditorium, 200 Barlow Road entrance to campus. Thursday, April 25, 7:30 p.m. $5. 203-254-4010, 877-278-7396, www.quickcenter.com.