In a generation that enjoys rap songs with disgusting lyrics, it’s hard to find anybody who enjoys some classic jazz. As one of my favorite genres, Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington fill my iTunes more often than Ke$ha does. The Ohio University School of Music knows how create a love for jazz to entertain those of all ages, who will learn to appreciate that not all good music involves a music video killing unicorns.
Upon entering the Spring Jazz concert, I was surprised at the low attendance of the evening. It seemed the majority of students were just attending to fulfill a class requirement, and weren’t really paying attention to the performance. They seemed too busy taking notes than to appreciate the soul jazz brings to the stage.
Despite this misgiving, the musicians really knew how to entertain.
The first ensemble of the evening was the Jazz Percussion Ensemble, led by Roger Braun. Although I didn’t initially get the jazzy feel with the percussion instruments, these performers were able to get into the beat, and provide their own renditions of the songs. Because they were only using percussion instruments, it was a tad bit hard to tell what instrument was being played and when. The only time I was able to tell the difference among the vibraphones, marimbas and xylophones was when a soloist was playing.
With solely percussion instruments, it was hard to find a captivating instrument that could stand out among the others. In the third movement, “Sidewinder”, this problem was solved by a solo on the steel drum. This added a whole new tone and feel to the song that enabled the audience to realize jazz has a fun side to it.
The last movement, “Suite Norte, Sul, Leste, Oeste” originates from Brazil, and the musicians made sure the audience knew it. Being very upbeat and catchy, I felt as though I were walking down the street during Carnival. The best way the performers utilized the Brazilian culture was by using maracas and gourd shekeres throughout the song, adding a more Latin feel to the movement.
The next ensemble, Jazz Ensemble II had more of a traditional big band, jazzy feel to it. What shocked me when this group came onstage was there was only one girl in the whole ensemble. I know from my days in jazz band in high school that girls were a rarity, but I didn’t realize they had become outnumbered.
This ensemble featured a lot of soloists, most of whom, didn’t seem to know how to perform for a solo. They didn’t seem like they knew how to make the audience think they were the only person onstage.
The best solos of the evening had to be the trumpet and soprano saxophone. The trumpet player used a mute on his horn, creating a sort of muffled sound. This sound was very smooth, making me feel like I was in a speakeasy in the 1920s, during the peak of jazz’s popularity. The soprano sax solo was very impressive. During the song “Groovin’ Hard”, the soloist was able to hit all the high notes without being off key and was able to move his fingers in such a way that he was able to keep up with the hurried beat of the music.
The most impressive part both ensembles brought to the stage was harmony. With any concert, having so many instruments playing, it may be difficult for the audience to know what instruments to focus on. With the Jazz Percussion Ensemble and the Jazz Ensemble II, the musicians knew what parts they played, and knew when to take a step back during a soloist’s performance. This part allowed us audience members to listen in peace, and not have our ears straining for the proper part of the music to listen to. The harmony that ensued allowed me to get a true feel for jazz.
Being a jazz lover myself, this concert was the utmost enjoyable. OU’s School of Music really outdid themselves with this concert. Not only giving different subsets of jazz, by having two different ensembles, it let the audience see all aspects of jazz. And allowed the audience to realize jazz is a fun genre of music — you just don’t need glitter and unicorns to dress up the music like Ke$ha does.