November 4, 2013 | by Heather Franz
Music Department Jazz Night Features Swinging Arrangements

The Shepherd University Music Department Jazz Night on Oct. 29 featured an array of musical mashups that kept hands clapping and toes tapping. The concert was held under the direction of Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies, Dr. Kurtis Adams.

As last minute guests meandered to their seats, the sound of constant chatter began to fade as the lights slowly dimmed. The night opened up with a snazzy rendition of “Queen Bee” by composer Sammy Nestico. As the spotlight focused on the brass instruments, the chatter of the audience ceased entirely; the night had begun.

The first portion of the event highlighted the jazz lab band. The band is referred to as a jazz “lab” due to the fact that many of the students within the band rent out the instruments. Additionally, Adams stated that many students in this setting play instruments that they have not had any prior experience with, therefore making it a “lab-like” environment.

The jazz lab band finished the infamous “St. James Infirmary” composed by Joe Primrose and uniquely arranged by Mike Kamuf. The whining melody of the sax filled the room as performers Matt Lind and Will Lopez put their skills to use.

The atmosphere of the jazz ensemble was exactly what one might expect when attending a jazz-themed show. There is something about jazz as a culture that might bring an image of snapping fingers and “chill vibes” to mind. Overall, each of the individuals who took the stage seemed to be at ease and genuinely enjoying what they were doing. This was specifically apparent in the following segment of the show, which highlighted the jazz combos.

The jazz combos are arranged under the direction of Dr. Nathan Lincoln-Decusatis. Jazz Combo II took the stage first. Each musician on stage contained an undeniable passion for the instrument he was playing. The arrangement of melodies made it seem as if these individuals were simply in a friend’s garage or at a local coffee shop playing their instruments and having a good time. After Jazz Combo II finished a remarkably catchy rendition of “Doodlin’” by Horace Silver, Jazz Combo I took the stage.

Despite the fact that the musicians relied on each other to carry out each song as it was intended, it almost felt as though there were a friendly competition going on among them. At the same time, there was an apparent camaraderie which took place on stage, which was made evident by the constant head nodding and smiles that took place when a student nailed that high note.

After a brief intermission, Adams welcomed the audience back by saying, “We hope you enjoyed your break… We enjoyed your break.” This remark got the audience laughing and caused drummer Sawyer Gaydon to give a little feedback on his drums. This turned into a brief comedic banter among Sawyer and Adams, until Adams gave the signal and the Jazz Ensemble took to the stage.

As the grand finale of the night, the Jazz Ensemble featured infamous tunes, such as “Mack the Knife,” which featured a phenomenal “battle of the saxes” among alto saxophone player Hansu Sung and Jordan English on the soprano saxophone.

Of all the musical masterpieces that were highlighted throughout the night, the stand out piece was a unique rendition of Radiohead’s “Kid A” by composer Steve Owens. Owens did quite the number on this original hit as it was almost unrecognizable. Nevertheless, the musical execution of this arrangement was all the more exciting. Trumpet player Alvaro Silva went above and beyond as the featured trumpet player for this piece, and drummer Sawyer Gaydon contributed what could only be described as a percussive explosion of excellence.

As the show came to a close, the constant sound of chatter once again filled the auditorium. Smiling audience members recounted their favorite moments of the night, while a few select musicians remained on stage giving kudos to their fellow performers. Upon leaving the building, the faint sound of humming could be heard coming from a satisfied musician walking down the hall.

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