Ensemble shows joy of jazz

Jazz music filled Chapin Hall Saturday evening as the Williams Jazz Ensemble and several small groups played for a near-full house.

The first half of the program showcased several small jazz groups, beginning with the three-member Menage A playing Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge” and Grant Green’s “Miss Ann’s Tempo.” The latter featured a drum solo by Lucas Goodbody ’03. In both pieces, guitarist Dave Goodman ’03 and bassist Matt Swan ’03 played off each other well, adjusting skillfully to the difficult acoustic challenge presented by the concert hall.

Next on the agenda was the quartet Off Minor. The first piece was Nat Adderly’s “Work Song,” a lively piece with many changes in mood featuring Liliana Goldman ’03 on piano and Dan Bissex ’02 on bass. A trumpet solo by Jon Othmer ’02 was a highlight of the piece, and he was well-supported by Alexander Dorsk ’05 on trombone, whose solo was also well-received. The second, warmer piece, Dorsk’s arranged edition of Kahn and Brown’s “You Stepped Out of a Dream” drew attention to Goldman’s skilled piano playing.

The Dave Thal Ensemble, a septet of musicians, opened with Charles Mingus’ “Moanin’.” The upbeat piece, featuring Dave Thal ’03 on bass and Sam Van Volkenberg ’05 on saxophone, held the audience’s attention throughout. Duke Ellington’s “Creole Love Call” was next, a longing, moody piece which provided ample opportunity for Daniel Krass ’05 to show off his piano mastery, accompanied by Matt Stankiewicz ’03 on the drums.

Last of the Williams combos was the Eric Getty Quintet. With Eric Getty ’02 on saxophone, Jocelyn Gardner ’05 on the trumpet and flugelhorn, Jamie Strawbridge ’04 playing piano, David Thome ’05 plucking the guitar and Ben Jaffe on the drum set, the group began with Clifford Brown’s “Jacqui.”

The second piece, Dave Holland’s “The Winding Way,” featured complex beats and rhythms that the quintet managed to make sound smooth and effortless. Strawbridge was active on the piano as the audience applauded to the sound of his hands flying down the keys. Getty and Gardner had graceful communication in their duets, blending and playing fluently with each other.

Williams Jazz Ensemble Acting Director J.C. Sanford then introduced the 20 musicians of the Williams Jazz Ensemble, who started off their set with Quincy Jones’ arrangement of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” A saxophone solo by Chuck Jakobsche ’04 captured the yearning sentiment of the piece. The second composition was a performance of Thad Jones’s “Three and One,” featuring three members of the ensemble in individual solos spaced throughout the piece. Corie McDermott ’04 on the trumpet, Seth Behrends ’02 on the baritone saxophone and Bissex on the bass created a small group feeling within the larger ensemble. Defiant harmonies and a powerful dissonance at the end provoked much enthusiasm from the audience.

The next piece was the world premiere of J.C. Sanford’s composition “Chico’s First Date.” Sanford explained that he wrote the piece in remembrance of trumpeter Chico O’Farrill, and the music in large part mimics his style of composing. The lively beat and unexpected melodies were refreshing and innovative.

Tempo and mood changes punctuated Sanford’s arrangement “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans.” Jon Othmer’s skilled trumpeting was again in the forefront, with his obviously heartfelt performance engaging the audience. The piece was a difficult one overall, but with one exception, the ensemble made its time shifts feel natural. Sanford introduced the next piece, Duke Ellington’s “Main Stem,” by comparing the members of the ensemble to the original members of Ellington’s band. The evocation of an old time recording made the piece even more enjoyable, adding a historical context to its already rich musical content.

The next piece, Neal Hefti’s “Splanky,” was notable for its muted color and easy swing. Sanford emphasized its lighthearted tone by pointing out to the audience the piece’s characteristic “splank, splank, splank” Count Basie piano riff at the end.

Charles Mingus’ “Hora Decubitus” closed the concert in an enthusiastic burst of raw jazz, enlivening and engaging the audience. It was representative of the overall concert atmosphere of wholehearted enjoyment of music on the part of both the audience and the musicians.

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