Music students jazz up Kendall during funky autumn ensemble

A cadre of talented music students filled Kendall Hall Nov. 17 with the smooth, soulful sounds of jazz as a part of the Music Department’s Jazz Ensemble, directed by Gary Fienberg, assistant professor of music.

A final performance for students of the Jazz Lab class, taught by Fienberg, the students treated the audience of students and relatives alike to the pieces they learned through the semester.

The students played songs by jazz greats Duke Ellington, Benny Carter and Rich DeRosa, among many others. It was apparent that not only did the students know the songs, but they also loved the form, tapping their feet and nodding with the songs’ rhythms.

Many of the songs were prefaced with a description and history, told by Fienberg. What interests Fienberg about jazz, he said during the ensemble, is “how it teaches us about ourselves, about America.”

Jazz has its roots in a number of musical styles and is rich with history, taking elements of African music, blues, ragtime and even European marching bands, interpreted at the ensemble by students playing a variety of horns, a piano, a bass and an even an electric guitar.

Even without lyrics, the songs conveyed stories deeper and more heartfelt than most contemporary novels.

The emotions buried within the notes were released with the help of ensemble play and student solos.

The songs were a mix between older and more contemporary jazz, and some of the songs were amalgams within themselves. “One Note Samba,” by composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, evolved from Brazilian dance music.

In the 1950s, Jobim became a star in Brazil, with his samba-influenced jazz piece, a calming song with some instrumental pyrotechnics that kept audience members’ feet tapping.

Besides single solos by many of the students, and even one from Fienberg on the trumpet, there were dueling saxophones played by music majors freshman Stephen Voelker on tenor sax and junior Steven Cooney on alto during “A Blues for Dave,” by Doug Beach.

The song also featured a trombone solo by junior music major Jeff Auriemma and a guitar solo from junior criminology and justice studies major Brandon Burke.

DeRosa’s “The Funk Stops Here” added a funky twist to the night, with a song that combined elements of jazz and funk, keeping the song list fresh and unusual.

The last song was a ’70s inspired romp, flooding the hall with jazz-tinged-soul in Bob Curnow’s “Scorpion Dance.” A trumpet solo accompanied it, played by Ben Krupit, freshman music major.

The show ended on a good note, or several good notes, as the song soothed and seduced the audience before they were deposited into the cold of that Friday night.