MC Jazz Band says hello to new director, goodbye to seniors in spring concert

The Maryville College Jazz Band performs in Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall on April 22 at 7 p.m. Photo Courtesy of Alex Cawthorn.
The Maryville College Jazz Band performs in Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall on April 22 at 7 p.m. Photo Courtesy of Alex Cawthorn.

The Maryville College Jazz Band performed on the Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall stage April 22 at 7 p.m.

Senior and drummer Chris Hickman quietly, yet audibly, counted off the group and began
playing a methodic, syncopated cymbal stroke on brushes and a rim-click underneath the smooth melody of Quincy Jones’s arrangement of Benny Golson’s “Killer Joe.”

Next was McCoy Tyner’s “Contemplation”, a piece from his 1967 album The Real McCoy following his departure from John Coltrane’s Quartet. The jazz band displayed the somber, inward and reflective nature of the piece that Tyner himself described in past interviews as sounding like, “the sound of a man alone. A man reflecting on what religion means to him, reflecting on the meaning of life.” Almost every group member was featured in this moving second piece, all Playing with soulful inflection.

“Blue Bossa” brought up the mood with its faster melody. A blend of hard bop and bossa
nova, the tune was possibly influenced by composer Dorham’s visit to the Rio de Janeiro Jazz Festival in 1961.

The original 1963 tune has since been recorded numerous times by different artists, making it a jazz standard for many including the MC jazz band. Towards the middle of the piece a trade-off between heated drum improvisation and melodic manipulation from other band members riled up the audience. Senior mandolin player Adam Loo used descending thirds to make a smooth inversion of the “Blue Bossa” melody.

The continuously moving bass of “Straight Line” kept up the energy although it ended quickly. “Bag’s Groove” made up for the shorter previous piece with an interesting bass rhythm that gave elegant and appropriate testimony to the title of the arrangement.

During the second set of pieces, Dr. Larry Smithee, former Maryville College music professor and guest director made his way to the stage from his seat in the audience.

“Directing the jazz band this semester has been a lot of fun for me,” Smithee said.

Smithee, who retired from the College in 2012 after 21 years on the faculty, was the director of the MC Jazz Band during his first nine years on the faculty. Bill Swann, associate professor of
music and chair of the Maryville College Division of Fine Arts, became director in 2000. During
his tenure at the College, Smithee also started the Maryville College-Community Concert Band in 1992, which he directed until his retirement. Smithee returned to direct the jazz band this year.

“It’s been a real treat to work with this group again,” Smithee said.

Smithee said that of the 10 members of the group, five were seniors. They were particularly anxious to make sure this concert was a success.

“I’ve really enjoyed playing while I was here,” said senior guitarist Kacey Whitteaker.
Euphonium player and fellow senior Eric Kearney agreed with his band mate.

“I have learned a lot by being part of this group and I’ve enjoyed it,” Kearney said. “I can’t
imagine a greater musical experience.”

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