Although the rain moved the Knox Jazz Ensemble’s (KJE) last concert of the year inside to Kresge Recital Hall last Sunday, that did not phase them from putting on an exhilarating show.
A crowd of about 60 to 70 people filled the seats of the hall Sunday on a grey and drizzly afternoon. It was the last time the KJE would take the stage this year and they were sure to bring their best. The band moved on stage in casual dress, smiling and acknowledging the applauding crowd. Instructor of music Nikki Malley followed with a crescendo of applause from the audience. She politely smiled and turned to the band with her hands raised.
The band broke into the first three songs, “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Whisper Not” and Diane Schuur’s version of Cole Porter’s “Easy to Love” with an overwhelming energy. “Whisper Not” featured a lazy-Sunday solo on tenor sax from the versatile senior Michael Yu and senior Devan Cameron graced the crowd with her shimmering vocals on “Easy to Love.”
The next song, Stan Kenton’s meditative “Street of Dreams,” featured a dreamy sax solo from senior Doug Fennig over junior Jimmy Pittman’s smooth chromatic basslines. The piece also featured original writing from Pittman. The band played the Latin piece “Brazil,” which featured senior Alex Kayne on trumpet, to finish of the first half of the concert.
The second half of the concert included two favorites, the schizophrenic “Peanut Vendor,” another Stan Kenton piece and “Willow Weep for Me” by Ann Ronell. “Peanut Vendor” included a swaying solo from bare-footed trombone section leader senior Yumi Kusunoki. The trumpet section (Kayne and seniors Jevin Lorti and Meg Allen) shined in the piece with a satisfying solo conversation, which later morphed into an unsettling dissonant chromatic line. Sophomore Zach Lawrence’s trombone solo in Ronell’s piece began with a low lamenting groan of a sound that seemed to redefine weeping altogether.
The last four pieces were “Alright, Okay, You Win,” Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade,” “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You” and Charlie Parker’s “Moose the Mooch.” “Alright, Okay, You Win” featured Allen on vocals and “Moose the Mooch” was an impressive finale with a saxophone sectional solo.
In between each song, Malley read statements from each of the seniors in the KJE, which consist of Corey Heppner, Josh Gallalee, Kayne, Kusunoki, Fennig, Yu and Allen. The concert was tinged with melancholy with the knowledge that this show was their last.
The statements they made included the funny, sentimental and the awkward moments that defined the seniors’ KJE experience. In Corey Heppner’s statement, he wrote of his experience in KJE, “it’s not about the notes on the page…it’s about the people.”
Kayne called the KJE “rude, crude and totally awesome.”
Cameron assured Malley that she would send her future alto daughters to Knox to take her place in the KJE and the Knox College Choir.
Senior Jack Gallalee, guitarist, gave himself a “C+ for participation,” but jokingly said his “unbelievable chops” made up for it.
In honor of these seniors, each of them was also given the opportunity to request a song for the final show. As always is the case with the KJE, it was indeed a night to remember.