Music isn’t always played by the books. Sometimes it’s improvised.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling to make up the music on the spot,” said David Tuttle, music education senior and clarinetist.
Improv solos were a main component of the Jazz Ensemble’s big band style concert on Thursday in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall.
Logan Hahn, music freshman and saxophonist, said that although solos sometimes stress him out, jazz solos are easier on his nerves.
“I’ve found if you get comfortable enough with the scales and chords you just feel the piece and it comes together,” Hahn said.
Jeff Hall, artist in residence, taught the class this semester and said that students are usually hesitant at the beginning of the semester to improv. But by the end, almost everyone wants to try it.
“As the semester goes on, it’s nice to see the improvement,” he said.
And the final improvement was well received by the audience as they cheered on each soloist.
Kasey Fry, music education senior and saxophonist, said that the performance went well. Despite the fact that no musical group is able to replicate the way performance goes in rehearsal, she said they sounded good.
“And the audience enjoyed it,” she said. “That’s the important part: providing enjoyment and entertainment for our audience.”
Tuttle agreed, saying that the sound was great and the balance was good.
At the concert, the ensemble played songs such as “Basically Blues,” “After You’ve Gone” and “Bye Bye Blackbird.”
Fry said her favorite to play was a tie between “Money in the Pocket” composed by Joe Zawinul and arranged by Russell Scarbrough and “Cubano Chant” composed by Ray Bryant and arranged by Michael Philip Mossman.
“’Money in the Pocket’ is quite a workout for the saxophones and the trumpets,” she said. “It takes a decent amount of practice time outside of class to be able to play it well.”
But she said it is fun to play and that the soloists did “fantastic.”
Fry is actually the reason the ensemble played “Cubano Chant.” She had played it in a previous jazz band and was interested in learning more about it.
“I had little training in jazz improvisation at the time,” she said. “And I struggled with the rapid pace of the piece.”
Fry took it to Hall in her improv lessons, and Hall decided to find an arrangement for the ensemble so that she could play it again.
“Thanks to him, I understand the chords in the solo section better, and improvised much better this time around,” she said.
The second half of the evening featured guest artist Matt Corrigan on guitar.
After playing a few tunes with Hall on piano and students Ryan Fitzgerald, on bass, and Michael Jarema, on drums, Corrigan joined the entire ensemble to finish off the evening with three more songs.
One of these songs was “Valdez in the Country” by Donny Hathaway. It was Michael Koglin’s favorite. He is a welding senior and trombonist, favorite.
Koglin said that he joined the ensemble because it is fun to play the music and a place to relieve stress.
The performance, he said, was great: “Great director, great music, great people to play with.”
Hahn agreed: “We’ve got a talented bunch of musicians, and it’s always a pleasure being a part of a group like this.”
Hall said he encourages more students to join. It is a class that anyone can take, not just music majors. He said they are always look for more musicians.