Jazz Ensembles Wow Crowd

Written by Zan Strumfeld on 4 December 2008

The Department of Music presented this year’s first Chamber Jazz Ensembles performance in McKenna Theatre on Thursday, Nov. 20 from 8 to 10 p.m. The ensembles consisted of five different groups and were performed under the direction of professors Teri Roiger and John Menegon. Each ensemble consisted of student musicians who spent the entire semester preparing for the night’s concert. The audience, mostly students with some scattered parents, completely filled the seats.

The first to begin was the Vocal Jazz Ensemble, containing eight vocalists while six students backed them up in the rhythm section. The group performed jazz songs such as “Doodlin’” by Horace Silver and “In Walked Bud” by Thelonious Monk, and although it was their first performance, they worked well with one another. The singers trickled on and off stage when solos began in “Ellington Medley: ‘I’m Beginning to See the Light,’ ‘Take the A Train’ and ‘In a Mellow Tone,’” a combination of three Duke Ellington classics.

Holly Klipera, a second-year music-therapy and composition major, sang along with the Vocal Jazz Ensemble. According to Klipera, there were supposed to be two concerts for the five ensembles instead of just one, but due to new rules, everyone was only allowed 20 minutes of stage time. Although she said she was pleased with all of the performances, she was disappointed with this change.

“This was a good thing in that it forced each ensemble to pick their three best songs, so that only the most polished works were performed, however, it was also a disappointment,” said Klipera. “Twenty minutes is hardly enough time to allow each student to showcase what he or she had been working on for an entire semester of class, and the length that the show went on for was hardly fair to the audience. They should have been awarded, at least, an intermission with Twix bars and free soda.”

The night continued on with the Senior Jazz Ensemble, a seven piece group of students who had an unbelievably relaxed stage presence. They quickly captivated the audience with Benny Golson’s “Hassan’s Dream,” by perfecting it and exemplifying their precision. It was easy to see that these performers had been playing for awhile and that they truly understand how to play jazz. Their mellow tempo continued with “Star Eyes” by Don Raye and Gene Depaul and “Black Market” by Joe Zawinul, and when the drum solo came on, every other musician stopped playing and just watched him take the song.

Vince Tampio, a second-year jazz studies major, played trumpet along with the Senior Jazz Ensemble and the 114 Jazz Ensemble. Tampio said that this particular concert determined if the music department should continue with one concert like this or divide it into two for future semesters. However, Tampio seemed to agree more with having two separate concerts. “We barely had enough time to explore the songs on stage. Part of being a musician is being allowed to explore the music in the moment and interact with the audience without much boundary,” said Tampio. “I just felt unfulfilled at the end of the night because all the groups were under strict guidance to finish the sets on time in a contrived manor, adhere to a specific dress code, etc.... On my own personal level, I feel I didn’t play enough, but what I did play I feel was quality.”

The rest of the performances included the 220 Jazz Ensemble, who played “Blue Bossa” by Kenny Dorham, “Footprints” by Wayne Shorter and a fun rendition of “The Flintstones” by Bryson/Goldberg. Following them was the 218 Jazz Ensemble, who performed “Stolen Moments” by Olivier Nelson, “Feel Like Makin’ Love” by Eugene Daniels and “Blessed Relief” by the great Frank Zappa. Finally, the 114 Jazz Ensemble finished out the show with “Green Dolphin Street” by Kaper/Washington, “Afro Blue” by Mongo Santamaria and “Spring Yard Zone,” the Sonic the Hedgehog theme song.

Professor Teri Roiger, who directed the Vocal Jazz Ensemble and the 220 Jazz Ensemble made it an assignment for her History of Jazz students to come along to the show, in order for them to really experience what jazz is like. “A lot of the audience members were hearing jazz for the first time, and a lot of my students told me they were very happy and thought it was very exciting,” Roiger said. “There were so many different levels from beginners to advanced and everyone brought their own thing to the bandstand.”

One of her jazz students first-year undecided Oliver Kammerman, couldn’t stop smiling after the show. “It was happenin’,” said Kammerman. Although the show was a little too long, the entirety of the show depicted a true jazz feeling. “Overall, I think the bands did really well,” said Klipera. “I was happy that we seemed to cover a wide range of repertoire - old jazz standards, be-bop, funk and Sonic the Hedgehog music and the Flintstones theme thrown in, naturally.”

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