Faculty Jazz Ensemble Plays the Blues

On Sunday afternoon, toes were tapping in the Timken Room to the beats of the Faculty Jazz Concert. Two faculty groups engaged the audience with their renditions of classics and original compositions. First to perform were Joel Springer on the saxophone, Vincent Monaco on the trumpet, Peter Cirelli on the trombone, Bob Baughman on the piano, Jesse Williams on the bass and Bertram Lehmann on the drums. They opened with Miles Davis’ “All Blues,” effortlessly passing the solo between the brass instruments and the piano. A lively beat on the bass accompanied by jingling cymbals put the audience in a jazzy mood. “The energy of the audience is what we feed on,” said Williams. “The whole excitement of live music is the communication from the performers to the audience and back to the performers. It was also great to see a wide age-range in the audience, from little babies to grandparents,” he continued. There certainly was a range in the audience, from students fulfilling music credit requirements to jazz aficionados and frequent concert attendees. One baby girl bopping in the audience was the subject of “Moonwalk Bebop-A.C.B” written by her father, Baughman. He drew inspiration from Michael Jackson and Charles Parker Jr., two great artists who shared his daughter’s birthday, to create a fun piece that held its own among the classics, featuring guitar as well as brass. The performers fed off of each other’s energy, each soloing with vibrant cadenzas. They made eye contact often, playing for each other as well as the audience for a more interactive show. Occasionally, one musician would gesture to another to change the volume of a speaker, resulting in a seamless balance. Finishing with the rousing “Better Git It in Your Soul” by Charles Mingus, this group yielded the stage to the next jazz band: Peter Cicco and Raleigh Green on the guitar and Dave Zox on the bass, with Lehmann still on drums. Their first selection was “Two’s Blues” by Jim Hall, which is Green’s favorite of the pieces. “The melody is very angular and deceptive,” he said. “It plays with your sense of expectation, until you aren’t sure where ‘beat one’ is anymore.” The slow opening chords of the next piece, “Strange Meeting” by Bill Frisell, created a lonely mood with a blues feel. In contrast to other pieces, this one carried the same melody the entire way through. Entranced in their music, some performers closed their eyes and heavily tapped their feet to the lazy beat. Cicco’s own composition had a more cheerful tone. “Someone once described jazz lines as curly cues, so we call it ‘The Curly Cue,’” he said. The melody traveled among the string instruments with agile backup from the drums. Lehmann tapped the standing cymbal with a wire brush to create a hushed tone, but would easily flip his sticks around to make louder accents as the pieces moved between soft and loud. The beachy Brazilian beat of the finale, “Bananeira” by Joao Donato and Gilberto Gil, left the audience content and sure to be humming on the way out. Though most of the seats of the Timken room were occupied, about a quarter remained open in the back. Hopefully, more people will take advantage of these on-campus, professional and free of charge performances in the future.