Quintet shines with passionate melodies

Last Thursday night, students and members of the Williamstown community gathered in the ’62 Center for a performance by the Greg Hopkins-Dino Govoni Quintet. Though turnout for the showing was relatively low, the jazz quintet gave a powerful performance that clearly showcased the unique talents of every player.
Each of the five musicians held claim to an impressive background in music. Trumpet player and band leader Greg Hopkins has toured internationally and played with a number of talented musicians, including the acclaimed singer Frank Sinatra. In addition, he has played with such groups as the Boston Pops and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Dino Govoni, tenor saxophonist, has two recordings to his name and is on the faculty of Berklee College of Music, a prestigious school with an emphasis on contemporary music.
Drummer Bob Gullotti has gained wide acclaim both at home and abroad for his unique creativity and interpretive technique. Hailed by his fellows as a “Boston icon,” Gullotti is a member of the four-time recipient of the Boston Music Awards No. 1 Jazz Act Award-winning band The Fringe and has over 50 recordings to his credit.
Bassist Keala Kaumeheiwa is a talented performer who currently teaches at Berklee College of Music.
Finally, Mark Shilansky is well known not only for his skills as a pianist, but also as a vocalist and composer with 50 albums to his credit. He has given performances across the globe and, like Govoni, Gullotti and Kaumeheiwa, is on the faculty at Berklee College of Music.
These five musicians gathered to play a wide variety of jazz pieces, some of their own composition and others with tunes familiar to many of the listeners. Their opening piece, Quintology, roused the audience with quick, upbeat melodies and impressive trumpet, sax and piano solos during which other members of the quintet fell silent or even walked off the stage, focusing viewer attention on the featured musician. Despite the piece’s frenzied pace, the quintet played with a smooth and even relaxed sound that would characterize the entire performance.
As the performance continued, the quintet alternated between a vast variety of musical themes and sounds. The second piece, Spring is Here, was slower and quieter, showcasing the warm, full tone of the saxophone and, later on, the talents of the piano and trumpet. Their performance of Cargasian, a piece composed by Hopkins himself as a pseudo-elegy to his three cats was highly reminiscent of the much-beloved Pink Panther theme. The five performers synchronized short, hesitating notes and sudden slides into the minor key, evoking the quiet, slinking nature of cats. In yet another piece, pianist Mark Shilansky began alone, playing a classical sounding piece that gradually moved towards a more typically jazzy feel as the drums and bass slowly entered the mix. In the final piece, Vim and Vigor, the quintet played at an incredibly fast pace, ricocheting from instrument to instrument as each musician played a fast, featured piece in turn.
The performance also included a surprise for the audience – for three of the pieces, the quintet welcomed to the stage the College’s own John Wheeler, artist associate in trombone, who acts as instructor for the Jazz Ensemble and principle trombonist to the Berkshire Symphony Orchestra. Together, Wheeler and the Quintet performed pieces such as The Gift, an exciting composition of Hopkins’ which featured solos from the trumpet, trombone, piano and drums, and also Affogato, a quick and upbeat piece which “lightened the mood” after several quieter, more serious performances and, as Hopkins joked, was “dedicated to a really great Italian dessert.”
Despite their incredibly varied repertoire, one thing remained consistent throughout the performance – the players’ enthusiasm. Eyes closed, the quintet bobbed and swayed to the music, clearly feeling the rhythm of the piece and immersing themselves in the melodies. Their enthusiasm carried them back and forth across the stage, even at one point leading the trumpet player to (perhaps unconsciously) leap into the air during a particularly moving saxophone melody. This dedication and enthusiasm for their music was truly infectious, impressing and invigorating the audience and making the performance well worth the time.

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