A Night of Jazz at Rowan University. The concert I chose to attend was the University
Jazz Bands Student Ensemble Concert. The concert featured two ensembles, both the Virginia
Tech Jazz Ensemble and the Jazz Lab Band. At this concert, I was both listener due to my
knowledge of music, and a casual listener enjoying my fellow Rowan Profs performing a great
concert. I enjoy my nature of listening because I can appreciate the music on many different
levels, and get much more out of the performances than the casual listener. Everyone has
different taste in music, but we all have to give major props to people who can play an
instrument, along with also knowing how to read music as well. It isn’t an easy thing to do, and
people who put on a good show definitely get my respect.
The concert was entirely jazz music, performing hits by Tommy Wolf, Duke Ellington,
Mike Tomaro, and on. The ensembles varied in composition, but both contained: alto, tenor, and
baritone saxophones; trumpets and trombones; drums, bass, piano, and guitar. A performer of
every instrument had a solo and one point or another in the various songs, which provided not
only a great chance to hear individual musician’s talents, but also a great opportunity to hear how
the instrument itself can be used in jazz improvisation and how styles vary from instrument to
instrument due to the nature of playing/performing them.
There were many songs performed at the concert, each with their own unique melody and form,
but all following the jazz standards. The first song, “Rosewood,” was written by Woody Shaw
and was performed by the Jazz Band. The song features a fast tempo with engineering and a
driving bass line. A quarter of the way through the song, there’s a great trumpet solo blaring over
a more generic standard jazz riff, which goes straight into a tenor saxophone solo. The
saxophone solo developed nicely upon the trumpet solo, both incorporating the first melody with
some minor improvisations.
The song had three themes, which were played in an ABACA pattern. The song was
generally polyphonic, with one soloist and instrument group playing a melody while the other
instruments provided harmonies. The relationship between the trumpet section and the
saxophones’ varying parts added depth to the song. The second song was “Dat Dere” was written
by Bobby Timmons. “Rosewood,” this song features a main theme that recurs throughout, with
episodes throughout which develop upon the theme before it is repeated in its original form
It featured a trombone solo which was unique to hear for me, because most pieces I’ve
heard feature saxophone and trumpets but never a trombone. “Dat Dere” also features the typical
saxophone and trumpet solos, however those follow the trombone. The tempo is more relaxed
than that of “Rosewood” and is just below an allegro. However, the energy and enthusiasm of the
musicians made it lively even though it wasn’t fast-paced. The third piece, Sammy Nestico’s
“Basie, Straight Ahead” also had a unique solo, the piano.
The pianist had been switching between piano and keyboard for the first two songs, and
in “Basie, Straight Ahead” finally got his time to shine. The piece emphasizes tempo like none
other, with the melody being one syncopated measure after another. There was great
conversation between the saxophones and the trumpets, firing back and forth at each other with
their music. The tempo was similar to that of “Dat Dere”. Towards the end, the drums really
emphasize by playing on the beat so that you can clearly hear that everyone else is off the beat.
The next song the Jazz Band played was “C-Jam Blues” by Duke Ellington, a classic jazz
piece featuring a distinctive motif that is played over and over again. The theme is then
developed upon by a few soloists, taking a simple two measure phrase and turning it into great
piece. The trumpet players make great use of Harmon Wah-wah mutes, keeping in the style of
the original song by the Duke. Definitely the most laid back piece with regards to tempo, “C-Jam
Blues” is definitely more bluesy than jazz.
After the blues, the Band went into Tommy Wolf’s “Spring Can Really Hang You Up
The Most” which ended up morphing into “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” by Josef Zawinul. It opens
with a beautiful slow piano solo which is quickly followed by a beautifully flowing saxophone
solo. Definitely a song of polyphony to start, the saxophone soloist keeps going while the rest of
the band accompanies quietly in the background. As soon as the solo is over though, the song
quickly sped up and the background temporarily took over the melody, before the solo began
some great improvisation upon the main theme.
After the saxophonist, the drummer takes over for some great rhythmic variations. After a
brief intermission, the Jazz Ensemble performed four pieces, which were all more lively,
energetic, and engaging than the first half. It was the Jazz Ensemble performance that I would
recommend to friends, because it was much more enjoyable to watch and listen to than the Jazz
Band. Whether it was because of their bigger numbers or just a difference in personality of the
performers, they were so much more energetic.
The Ensemble’s first piece was “Max” by John Clayton, which gradually adds instruments in and
gives a lot of attention to the saxophones by giving most of the melody and theme to them,
unless it is being played by everyone. The trumpets break out their Harmon mutes again, which
really does add a great layer of depth to the piece. The tempo was more casual than the other
pieces which was a great way to relax into the second half. The next piece was “Lambeau Leap”
by Fred Sturm, which quickly crescendos before a duet between the keyboardist and a trumpeter.
Following them was a great guitar solo which was quite enjoyable, due to how great jazz guitar
sounds. The theme was recurring, with an ABABA pattern throughout, with the B theme being
upon the soloists. The second to last piece was “Ice Castles” by Marvin Hamlisch, which was an
incredible piece and was rich in melody and harmonies.
The trumpet solos throughout the piece are quite smooth and beautiful, giving the piece a
nice calm blues feeling. The piece is almost a concerto due to the nature of the trumpet solo.
However, it was a great example of polyphony as the ensemble built underneath him, gradually
growing in the number of people playing and in dynamic level, all the while accompanying the
main trumpet’s theme. The final piece of the concert was “Minuano”, which is a very interesting
and difficult piece by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays.
Starting with a swirling melody. The song is led by a saxophone soloist until a trombone player
takes over and leads the group. A theme and variation of sorts, the main melody is constantly
developed upon by various instrumental parts, the tempo changing as they go, starting from a
relaxed andante and quickly working their way up. The trumpets’ final use of the Harmon mute
was very enjoyable to listen too.
In Conclusion, all of these pieces were extremely fun to listen too. These performers did
an excellent job on the performance along with satisfying the audience. I’m also glad to actually
attend and experience this Concert, because it opened my eyes to music genre of Jazz and how
awesome it really can be. All people who love music should definitely go see something Jazz
related, because you will not be dissapointed. I have so much respect for the people who dedicate
their time that goes into learning how to play an instrument, and or reading music.