Arts & Culture / Featured / Mosaic / November 13, 2014

Fall concert exhibits jazz students’ technical, improvisational abilities

The Knox Jazz department is working to create a community that fosters individual growth while encouraging experimentation.

On Nov. 9, the Knox Jazz Department staged a concert in Kresge Recital Hall to showcase its musical development throughout the term. The concert consisted of two sets, the first performed by The Cherry Street Combo and the second by The Knox Jazz Ensemble.

The student musicians featured in the concert were eager to testify to the value of the jazz department.

“Jazz gives the Knox Music Department diversity,” junior and trombonist for The Knox Jazz Ensemble Dy’Anna Augustus said. “Jazz is about community and progression, and that’s definitely something that is translated into the Knox Music Department.”

Along with benefits to the community, Augustus believes that engaging with the Knox Jazz Department has precipitated her development as an artist and a person.

“I like jazz because it’s free. It allows you to explore your instrument and explore yourself,” Augustus said.

Opening the concert, The Cherry Street Combo performed a set consisting of four songs.

The first piece, “Nica’s Dream,” was a fluid, musical narrative. Throughout the composition, soloists including trombonist Mike Supej, alto saxophonist Stephanie Hawes and drummer Brian Tanaka (all seniors) took up the storytelling, each providing unique interpretations which, as the final notes rang out, coalesced.

Freshman Emma Lipson favored “Nica’s Dream.”

“I liked the feel of that one the best, and the solos in it all seemed to work really well and the blend was really tight,” Lipson said.

The Cherry Street Combo also performed an original composition, “Crossed Loops,” which was written by senior Kyle Kunkler. Kunkler explored a variety of disparate musical elements in his piece, resulting in a departure from the music featured earlier in the concert.

“A lot of it is built around looped sections, thus the name,” Kunkler said. “In my mind, it’s made out of a bunch of different sections that could, on their own, continue almost indefinitely, but then I have taken pieces of them and put them together so that they cut each other off.”

Collaborating with the Cherry Street Combo, Kunkler will continue to develop his piece.

“I’m trying to work on proportions of the sections. A lot of it will just have to with us playing the piece more. It’s not just a matter of me figuring out the piece, we just need more time for everybody to get familiar with it,” Kunkler said.

Following “Crossed Loops,” The Knox Jazz Ensemble began their set, playing six songs.  Directed by Assistant Professor of Music Nikki Maley, the ensemble performed several blues numbers.

The third song of the set, “Groovin’ Hard,” demonstrated the Jazz Department’s commitment to encouraging the growth of its musicians. The piece featured trumpeter Kailee Gawlik as assistant director, allowing her to develop leadership and collaborative skills.

The concert closed with a mambo called “Chucho.” The piece was energetic and rhythmically nuanced, and included open sections that provided opportunities for improvisation. The infectious nature of “Chucho” was encapsulated by Maley’s intermittent performance of a subtle dance step throughout her direction.

In the wake of the concert, freshman Ben Lambert described the visceral nature of jazz music.

“Jazz is, as a form of music, alive,” Lambert said. “I’d never experienced that before, but I’m amazed by how much I enjoyed it É I felt that my presence and my reactions almost fed back into the constantly self-reshaping and coalescing body of music as it was happening. I was able to influence it. As an audience member, that’s not something I’m used to seeing.”


Alexandra Byerly, Staff Writer

Tags:  Brian Tanaka concert fall Jazz music music department performance stage

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