Faculty Hard Bop: A Tribute to Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers

“Daddy is the drummer,” a little girl in the audience exclaimed. Indeed, she had every reason to be proud. Little Shay Reynolds stood in the balcony as her father Bill Reynolds sent shockwaves through the crowd with his rhythms during Friday night’s Faculty Jazz Ensemble Concert. Reynolds’ performance was a tribute to Art Blakey, a great American jazz drummer. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers were one of the most influential groups in Jazz history. “Blakey was one of my main influences as a drummer – I listened to him as I first got started,” said Reynolds after the concert. “He is a very powerful drummer, playing dynamics from up here to down here. He really pulls the rhythm section with him,” Reynolds gestured. When asked about the selection of songs for the evening, he replied, “I love the pieces by Wayne Shorter, particularly the two opening pieces ‘One By One’ and ‘On the Ginza.’ This is my favorite period of jazz music.” The concert included a warm and upbeat repertoire with a lot of diversity in the song selection. The faculty recreated the camaraderie necessary for such comfortable and relaxed music. Reynolds’ two favorite pieces opened the show on a vibrant note, both played at a tempo that required the group to remain tight and together. Tenor Sax and Instructor in Music Joel Springer had a particularly bright solo during the first piece. “Pensativa” followed with the feel of a summer Samba as cool Latin jazz oozed from the stage. Particularly notable was the drum and acoustic bass solo. On bass, Instructor in Music David Zox unleashed swinging finger picking, while Reynolds finger-drummed the snare to evoke the sound of conga drums. “The Wee Small Hours,” a quaint ballad, featured Instructor in Music Peter Cirelli on the trombone, carrying the melody. During the intermission, jazz pianist Matt Villanueva ’07, commented on the song selection. “I’m a big Wayne Shorter Fan,” he said. “I’ve never heard the drummer play before; but I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. He and the bass interact really well. They chose really good tunes – I especially liked the ballad and Mr. Cirelli’s solo.” The second half of the show featured “Contemplation,” a composition by Instructor in Music Bob Baughman. True to its name, the piece emitted the sensation of wandering, bridged with just the slightest sense of direction. Baughman’s composition was followed by a familiar classic, “Blue Moon.” The piece served as a nice transition; the audience members hummed along with closed eyes and nostalgic smiles. Instructor in Music Vincent Monaco carried the melody on trumpet, adding a distinct flavor to the tune. The show concluded with “Blues March,” Blakey’s signature piece. The piece, which at first seemed unusual, soon became familiar. Reynolds contributed the final solo: a drum breakdown that was so dynamic and rhythmic, it left the audience in awe well after the show. The Faculty Jazz Ensemble has been performing together for ten years and the sense of cohesion seeped into the audience. With comfortable selections and a smooth group dynamic, the show left everyone happy.