By Jesse Jacondin
If the sudden burst of music was not enough to capture the audience’s attention, the shimmer coming off of the musicians’ finely polished brass instruments did the trick.
A pleasure for both the eyes and the ears, the College’s Jazz Ensemble turned the Kendall Hall Main Stage into an intimate jazz club last Friday, Nov. 12 under the direction of music department chair and director Gary Fienberg.
In front of a crowd of over 70 people — adults as well as students — the 19 musicians played nine jazz songs and one encore that covered the history of jazz from the early 20th century to today, audibly tracking the progression of the music style from Duke Ellington to 1960s funk and beyond.
“This year’s band is outstanding and it will be a very well-rounded and exciting concert,” Fienberg said in an e-mail before the show, and his comment was right on key.
The first half of the show began with Craig Skeffington’s “Using the Force,” an enjoyable upbeat melody followed swiftly by Marcy Klauber and Harry Stoddard’s “I Get the Blues When It Rains,” a classic jazz song that Fienberg described as having a “bassy style,” as it was heavily laden with the reverberating sounds of sophomore open options culture and society major Ala Jitan’s bass.
The rest of the first half was dominated by solos as Will McColly, freshman economics major, displayed his drumming talents in Cole Porter’s drum melody “I Get a Kick Out of You.”
Zach Sollitto, junior marketing major, soloed on tenor saxophone and Michael Readinger, sophomore biology major, showcased his piano abilities on Erroll Garner’s “Misty.” On Jeremy Fletcher’s salsa song “Jump Shot” trombonist Andrew Quigley, junior music education major, alto saxophonist Eddie Spencer, freshman computer engineering major, and once again pianist Readinger had three solos that seamlessly fit together to end the first half of the show with a bang.
As remarkable as the first five songs were, Fienberg and his 19 musicians came back strong in the second half starting with Duke Ellington’s “Harlem Airshaft” which Fienberg described as bridging the gap between “popular music and concert music.”
“Airshaft” was followed by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” an alto saxophone feature in which Stephanie Semanoff, junior special education and psychology major, soloed on top of the rest of the ensemble.
Next came Mark Taylor’s “Boptitude Test,” a song with a “compelling rhythm” and a “very fast tempo,” according to Feinberg.
The final scheduled song was Rich DeRosa’s “The Funk Stops Here,” a funk piece from the 1960s.
“The bass and the baritone saxophone players did a great job laying down a sweet groove (for DeRosa’s piece),” said junior music education major Craig Dickert.
As an encore the ensemble performed Vernon Duke’s “April in Paris,” a song so good they repeated the ending three times before bowing and receiving a standing ovation.
The only wrench in the performance came when Fienberg adjusted several microphones for the musicians. However, if it meant the solos were heard clearly and crisply from every seat in Kendall, then the eye’s temporary sacrifice was worth the ear’s continued pleasure.