The Knox Jazz Ensemble (KJE) and the Bradley University Jazz Band, featuring virtuoso trumpeter Allen Vizzutti, improvised and blasted music through Kresge Recital Hall during Monday’s concert. Directed by Instructor of Music Nikki Malley, Knox’s Jazz Ensemble was the first to go on, sporting concert black as well as purple ties with gold stripes. Malley shuffled her feet while directing “Blues for Alfie,” which had numerous solos from the saxophone and trumpet sections, as well as piano and guitar solos.
Vocalist sophomore Laurel Tippe came to the stage for “A Day in the Life of a Fool” and “How High the Moon.” The tone and style of her voice easily blended with the band. “A Day in the Life of a Fool” had a moderate tempo in which Tippe sung with a vibrato and held beautiful sustained notes while she subtly swayed to the beat.
“I Should Have Known” started as a plaintive ballad featuring lead trombonist junior Zach Lawrence. “I Should Have Known” was something the audience could imagine playing while a guy down on his luck sits in a bar with a drink in hand. The varying dynamics and tempos shaped the piece as the band showed good control of crescendos and forte-pianos, building to great volume and suddenly subduing their loud notes.
One of the Latin charts KJE prepared this term, “Con Alma,” began with booming notes and had a steady beat until it built up to a shift in focus to the rhythm section. The last piece from the KJE was another Latin tune called “Amoroso,” featuring a strong beat and rhythm. The call and response portion from the trumpet and trombone sections was soon followed by a sustained note to end the song.
From Peoria, Ill., the Bradley University Jazz Band, directed by Dr. Todd Kelly, came on stage after the intermission. Bradley’s first song, “Autumn Leaves,” showed the band’s great control, beginning with a precise fall of notes. The band had a clean sound that was together throughout. Their dynamics were powerful, and having good control resulted in a big payoff in the end.
Kelly took time to thank Associate in Applied Music David Hoffman for his work with Bradley’s band while he was on sabbatical. World-renowned trumpeter Vizzutti took the stage after the third song. Kelly said seeing Vizzutti, who also hails from his hometown of Missoula, Mont., play during his sophomore year of high school was a defining moment for him.
Before Vizzutti played, he needed a little help with the mic, which resulted in Malley and Hoffman hurrying to the stage to see who would help him first. Malley was the first to get there and, as Hoffman returned to his seat, he laughed and said, “I don’t think he [Vizzutti] needs it [the mic].” And Hoffman’s statement was true; as Vizzutti played, he proved why he is a virtuoso on trumpet, with a great tone and effortless control of high notes. He switched trumpet for cornet in different pieces and showcased his skill with cornet as well. Humble as he is skillful, after his solos, Vizzutti gave little bows as the audience clapped for him.
The highlight of the night was when a trumpet player from Bradley went to the front of the stage and played with Vizzutti. Vizzutti smiling as he listened to Bradley’s trumpet player was a nice moment. They interchanged improvisations until they played together, at the end of which they hugged and smiled as the audience cheered.