Last Thursday, the TU school of music hosted the spring jazz concert. The TU jazz guitar ensemble and big band I played several selections. Pat Kelly, a TU alumnus, featured heavily throughout the works, and singers Olivia Duhon and Sarah Richardson accompanied him and the band in several pieces as well. The change in bands followed a change in mood.
The night started off with the jazz guitar ensemble, directed by Jim Bates. With five guitars, one bass and a drum set, the ensemble was noticeably softer than the big band.
The difference in volume did not mean the ensemble was not lively or loud. Their first piece, “Shiny Stockings,” began with a bouncy mix of the guitars, accompanied by a heavy cymbal presence.
From there, the ensemble’s pieces slowed in tempo. “Naima,” their next piece, slowed the evening down, with a breezy, dreamy melody that made the song’s original intent as a love ballad known.
The evening picked back up with “Take Five,” a popular piece with a swinging melody. “Take Five’s” flat, minor key added a somber note to an otherwise moving piece. In a sudden change of mood, “High Time We Did” resembled a sixties’ rock song, with sharp, punctuated notes that flowed together until Kelley’s solo added variety to the mix.
Pat Kelley featured in each selection by the guitar ensemble. Kelley also played several pieces independently of the TU group, accompanied only by Duhon and Richardson. These songs originated from his new album, which was mentioned several times during the evening. These songs were interspersed in both the ensemble and big band, adding variety. Both vocalists sang about love and remembrance of a past, or current lover.
While both singers had a smokey quality to their vocals, Richardson augmented her work with scat singing, the technique of adding wordless vocals or nonsense singing. This technique played in well with Kelley’s work, amplifying the rhythm and melody.
The big band I, directed by Vernon Howard, played the second half of the evening. The first song, “Minor Occurrence,” announced the mood of the rest of the night. The piercing trumpets brought the audience back from the intermission break, and the fast tempo and loudness kept up through the next few songs.
Several pieces featured sudden changes in dynamics, which tricked audiences into believing the band was near done. The multitude of different instruments allowed the band to play with a greater range of dynamics than the first band, seen best in the trumpets and trombones adding higher pitches and a more lively atmosphere to their selections.
Near the end of the night, Dohan sang “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” originally a Bob Dylan song, with Kelley’s accompaniment. The song lacked the original harmonica or Dylan’s vocals, but Dohan made it her own, with dolcett vocals occasionally broken by sharp, high peaks. The calmer song brought a change of pace from the loud, rambunctious pieces with which the band started. Dohan also sang “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” with the big band. At times, the band overpowered her vocals, but her presence served to quiet the song.
As seen in “Milestones,” double drumming (having two drum sets used), best summarized the big band’s performance — loud, energetic and with an impressive blend of instruments. The passion and excitement of the drummers leaked into the audience as they played both simultaneously and alone, leading to a standing ovation. Throughout their featured part, the drumming ranged from a frantic, seemingly unpredictable solo beat to a more rhythmic combination that built up to the rest of the band’s return to the piece.
The combination of the two bands, with Kelley and his vocalists, led to a diverse mixture for TU’s spring Jazz concert. Audience members appreciated the passion evident in multiple solos and the technique of the players. passion evident in multiple solos and the technique of the players.