Faculty Ensembles Bring Jazz Classics to Life

The metallic clanking of cowbells shattered the calm introduction of a Faculty Jazz Ensemble’s rendition of “Decision.” Composed in 1992 by Oscar Hernandez, the smooth and steady piece featured Raleigh Green and Peter Cicco, Adjunct Instructors in Music, who played a soothing melody on electric guitars. Percussion instruments from the collection of Bill Reynolds, a friend of the faculty musicians, underscored the atmosphere set by the guitars.

“Decision” was one of ten songs played by two faculty ensembles at Sunday afternoon’s Faculty Jazz Concert in the Timken Room. Green, Cicco and Reynolds, along with bassist Dave Zox, Adjunct Instructor in Music, composed the guitar-focused quartet, while the brass-based ensemble included Vincent Monaco, Instructor in Music, on trumpet, Joel Springer, Adjunct Instructor in Music, on saxophone, Peter Cirelli, Instructor and Chair in Music, on trombone, Bob Baughman, Adjunct Instructor in Music, on piano, Jesse Williams, Adjunct Instructor in Music, on bass and Reynolds on drums.

The brass-based ensemble began the concert with a five-song program that included one of Baughman’s own compositions, “Wolfgang’s Adventure.” While a slow piano melody pervaded the song, trumpet solos soared above the other instruments and a loud trumpet blast concluded the tune.

“The melody of [‘Wolfgang’s Adventure’] was based on ‘Alla Turca,’ a segment of one of Mozart’s sonatas… I wrote my composition with influences from salsa and, although they’re a little hard to play, [I] included some 12 bar chords [which are commonly used in blues music],” said Baughman.

The guitar-based ensemble also performed Thelonious Monk’s 1960 “Evidence.” Rather than playing a continuous melody, the prominent electric guitars produced a choppy rhythm full of distinctive notes. A rumbling drum, faintly audible throughout the piece, tied together the upbeat song.

“[The song’s] rhythm is really quirky and unpredictable… but there’s a certain cohesiveness and flow to the melody,” said Zox.

To close the concert, the guitar-based ensemble performed “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise,” which was composed by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II. Cascading guitar notes permeated the piece, while the plucking of bass strings added a smooth and peaceful layer.

“I rehearsed with [Green] and [Zox] once, and we all rehearsed with the drummer once… If we had rehearsed these pieces many times and played together week after week after week after week, it would be a lot tighter, but that’s not the nature of what we’re doing,” said Cicco, “We’re making decisions and we’re negotiating as we’re playing. It’s more alive.”