McDonald’s Jingle Adds Funk to Jazz Concert

With Arthur Doran ’15 tapping a strong and steady beat on the drums, Krishna Canning ’16 played the piano and sang “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder. Behind Canning, Brett Sawka ’17 bobbed his head up and down while strumming the strings of his bass guitar, and Jacob Peffer ’17 played two saxophones simultaneously.

Doran, Canning, Sawka and Peffer comprise The Brett Quartet, an ensemble that performed Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” at last Saturday’s Academy Jazz Band concert. In addition to this student-run band, the concert also featured the Academy Jazz Band, directed by Peter Cirelli, Instructor and Chair in Music.

After The Brett Quartet finished their set of three songs, which also included “Au Privave” by Charlie Parker and “Blue in Green” by Miles Davis, they were joined on stage for the rest of the concert by the Academy Jazz Band. Together, the Academy Jazz Band performed Duke Ellington’s “Harlem Airshaft.” A mellow tune that included piano and saxophone solos, “Harlem Airshaft” had a strong, swinging downbeat and subdued trumpets.
“I really like the tempo of ‘Harlem Airshaft.’ It sort of bounces a little bit and it’s fun with the mute in the trumpet. It has a really nice, quick motion to it and that’s why it’s really fun and engaging,” said Samantha Hagler ’16, a trumpet player in the Academy Jazz Band.

Consisting of slow-moving harmonies, George Gershwin’s “Summertime,” followed “‘Harlem Airshaft.” Doran was performing a traditional piano solo until he unexpectedly incorporated the McDonald’s theme song “I’m Lovin’ It,” an adaptation that elicited laughter from the audience during the otherwise gentle tune.

Peffer said, “My favorite song was ‘Summertime.’ I liked the minor feel. It feels kind of blues-y. I think our performance turned out very well. [Doran] had a great piano solo in ‘Summertime.’ It had a lot of great chromatics, very ingenious.”

Also played in the concert was “Us” by Thad Jones. The song began with a bang as all instruments played a loud and complicated rhythm. The piece’s overall upbeat tone was interrupted by occasional guitar solos played by Ian Frankel ’15. Plucks on the bass added a choppy sound while the piano and maraca kept a steady pace.

Frankel said, “[‘Us’] was a really intricate, fun piece. Overall, the melody was catchy. It had some odd rests and counting parts but allowed the brass to scream high notes and the sax to spurt out cool runs. Also, it was a really fun guitar part to play because the second half of the song was ‘ad lib solo fills’ so I got to do funky riffs.”

The concert ended with Red Garland’s “Blues By Five,” which included several improvisational solos and a strong, steady drum beat played by Rohan Lewis ’17.

Lewis said, “‘Blues by Five’ was the one completely spontaneous and mostly improvised song we performed. The sheet music contained only eight bars of blues, which we played two times at the beginning and end of the piece. Everything in between was improvised solos, most of which [Cirelli] called on the spot.”