The auditorium was quiet when senior Devan Cameron took the stage. Behind her, the Knox Jazz Ensemble sat, waiting for director Nikki Malley to begin the tune. This was Cameron’s first night singing with the KJE big band.
“I got involved by signing up to sing with a combo last year,” said Cameron. “I’m relatively new at jazz singing, but I love it.”
Cameron sang three songs with the band on Saturday night, to great response from the audience. She sang an old favorite, “Teach Me Tonight,” as well as a saucier song “Mini the Mooch.”
“I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to have my first [big band jazz singing] experience with,” said Cameron. “To have other people enjoying what I’m enjoying is fantastic.”
As an outsider from the band, Cameron was impressed with the musicians’ ability to play jazz and the way they made such technically difficult pieces seem effortless. She is learning about improv and the blues scale, which is a big part of jazz music.
“You get a sense of people’s soul [in jazz],” said Cameron. “It’s extremely freeing.”
Though the band was made up of several instrumentalists playing brass, saxophone and rhythm instruments, making herself heard over the band was not a problem.
“I’ve always had a notoriously loud voice,” said Cameron. Malley was very conscientious of Cameron’s voice and made sure she did not have to strain it.
Cameron has been a part of the vocal music department at Knox in the past and enjoys singing in choirs, though it is much different singing jazz alone.
Cameron is planning on continuing her work with KJE for the rest of the year, including this spring’s Rootabaga Jazz Festival.
“To see the artsmanship [sic] in these college players is amazing,” said Cameron.