By Julia Duggan
The Kendall Hall Main Stage Theater was filled with jazz, solos and a wide showcase of talent as the TCNJ Jazz Ensemble gathered for its concert on Nov. 15.
Gary Fienberg, the coordinator of Brass Studies and the director of the Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Studies, led the group, which performed music from two accomplished jazz arrangers, Bob Florence and Thad Jones.
While the concert featured all the standard jazz instruments that one might expect, such as five saxophones, five trumpets, four trombones and a standard rhythm section, the performers had more uncommon ones as well, including French horns, a vibraphone, flutes, clarinets and a bass clarinet.
“Preparing this repertoire for tonight’s concert was challenging for a number of reasons,” said Nick Napier, a sophomore music education major. “We are challenged as musicians to play music from great big band composers and leaders who orchestrated very difficult music of its time, and requires a lot of attention to detail and rhythmic precision.”
The concert opened with Jones’ “Greetings and Salutation.” To the audience’s surprise, two saxophone players put down their instruments and picked up flutes, while another picked up a clarinet and four french horn players joined the stage.
The piece began with an eerie sound that turned into a recognizable jazz groove that had several audience members swaying to the music. The piece’s soloists included Napier and Max Hill, a junior finance major.
Fienberg then surprised the audience by testing their ability to recognize the music that was scheduled to be played in the concert. Although the names of the songs and their composers were listed in the program, they weren’t in the right order. Fienberg wanted the audience to be engaged with the music and try to guess which arranger wrote the piece. After every song, he announced their titles and composers.
Throughout the concert, almost every performer was featured, as each solo beautifully showcased the player’s talent. The confidence and excitement could be felt as the final note of every performance faded out.
“Personally, it is an amazing experience to play the music that I am so used to hearing on my phone and now I get the chance to play it live and for all my friends,” said Carlos Orta, a sophomore music education major.
Other pieces by Jones included “Kids are Pretty People,” “A Child is Born,” “Little Pixie II” and “To You.”
Fienberg then brought out Sophia Isnardi, a senior music education major, who played the alto flute, which is longer than the normal instrument and has a lower range. The rest of the saxophone section put down their instruments and picked up flutes. Soloists included Chris Cancglin, a junior music education major, and Dan Beer, a senior computer science major.
The Florence-composed songs included “Carmelo’s by the Freeway,” “Flight of Fancy,” “Evie” and “Willowcrest.” “Evie” was the last piece that the ensemble played and the performers did not disappoint. The saxophone section picked up clarinets and flutes for part of the song, a bass clarinet was picked up by Junior music and political science double major Kaitlyn Canneto, who picked up a variety of instruments, including a bass clarinet, a baritone saxophone, a flute and a clarinet in other pieces.
One of the trumpet players picked up a flugelhorn, which falls under the trumpet family. Beer, one of the pianists in the group, played on the vibraphones, which reinforced the jazz vibe, while the other unusual instruments added to the music’s dance element. The musicians performed well by keeping the jazz feel, while working with other instruments that they don’t normally play.
The audience was so pleased by the concert that the ensemble performed an encore, “Farewell,” by Jones. The piece opened with the trumpet section hitting screaming high notes, which called attention to itself from being so high in the trumpet range. After a satisfying end to the concert that was full of energy and excitement, Cancglin expressed his gratitude to the audience.
“Just pure enjoyment,” Cancglin said. “If you came out to see us, thank you so much! It means the world to me, as well as the rest of the band.”