According to Merriam Webster dictionary, jazz is “American music developed especially from ragtime and blues and characterized by propulsive syncopated rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, varying degrees of improvisation, and often deliberate distortions of pitch and timbre.” However, to those that attended the Jazz Band concert on Nov. 13, jazz is, in every sense of the word, groovy. The evening began with “Cantaloupe Island” by Herbie Hancock. Trombone player Sam Turpen filled the room with a booming melody, before the rest of the band split off into individual solos. The piece ended with a strong cadence and the band in a perfectly pitched harmony.
Next, Sam Boring started on bass guitar in “So What” by popular composer Miles Davis. When the piece ended, director and chair of the division of fine arts Dr. Bill Swann thanked the audience for attending and explained why many pieces on the program were specifically by composer Miles Davis. He admitted that this began as an accident, and, after he realized what he had done, he tried to find a way to make it a unified program by finding connections to Miles Davis in the other composers he had selected. Although this explanation justified the reasoning behind the musical selections, more variety would have been preferred during the jazz band’s performance.
However, the band went on to play a beautiful rendition of “At the Mambo Inn” by Bauza, Sampson and Woodlen. Musician Adam Loo pulled out his electric violin for the piece, to the pleasure of the audience. One could definitely see Loo’s expertise as he effortlessly played his solo. There was a nice brass chorus in this piece as well, but trombone player Sam Turpen sometimes overshadowed soprano saxophone player, Carrie West, as well as flute player Holly Black. In “Freddie Freeloader,” Loo played the electric violin again, which added a type of funk sound to the band. Chris Hickman presented a well-played solo on the vibraphone, but it would have been easier to hear him if drummer Thomas Finn would have lightened his sound a bit. The next two pieces, “Song for my Father” and “All Blues,” both possessed a noticeable jazz quality. Piano player Donovan Reeves had solos in both of these pieces.
He played like a professional, and both of his small moments in the spotlight were well executed and enjoyed by the audience. The band then went on to play their last two selections, “Eighty- One,” another Miles Davis piece, and “Cold Duck Time” by Eddie Harris. Though the tempo unintentionally became too fast during “Cold Duck Time,” it was still the best piece of the night. Hickman delivered a wellplayed solo during this piece, as well. Swann said that he thought the Jazz Band’s performance was a success.
“They’ve come a long way this semester, but it definitely is the most enthusiastic group I’ve had,” Swann said. “You can tell that they really want to learn.” He also said that the Jazz Band should especially be respected as musicians for their performances in the concert, because the genre of jazz is difficult, due to musicians always having to improvise onstage in front of an audience. He said that no piece is ever duplicated, and that it is always “completely in the moment.” The Jazz Band’s concert was, all in all, a complete success. It was both entertaining and pleasant to the ear. The band’s expertise left the audience with a respect for the genre of jazz, and a memory of a “groovy” performance that will not be easily forgotten.