Love of music is a Colby jazz musician’s value
Although the Colby Jazz Band performance on Saturday April 16 was entitled, “The Facts and Nothing but the Contrafacts,” the program consisted of more than just a compilation of previously arranged contrafacts.
Part of the “Music at Colby” series, the Colby Jazz Band entertained the audience with a number of famous big-brass-band standards as well as contrafacts arranged by Colby’s student-musicans. Bixler’s Given Auditorium was respectably full, as local Waterville music-appreciators and students from the College alike came to experience a night of big jazz sound.
Eric Thomas, Director of Band Activities, led the Colby Jazz Band through a surprisingly intimate performance, frequently involving Thomas’ humorous anecdotes.
While the Colby Jazz Band certainly put on a respectable concert, the most intriguing part was the band’s evident in love and appreciation for music, which was more important than putting on a perfect performance.
Through the musicians’ funky tie-dye attire, the impressive student-arranged and student-composed features, and Thomas’ priority of good music over audience expectation, it was clear that music was the most important concern.
The concert began with a Sammy Nestico standard. The piece started with a chord-building opening that established the band’s program for a loud, thick, brassy night.
After the showy saxophone slurs in the three-minute piece, “Night Song” (part of a trio set of smaller jazz ensemble pieces by Bill Holcombe), Thomas made the audience chuckle as he described the mischief-making “politics of the trumpet section” (which he further explained have not changed since his own Junior High years), featured in the following piece, “Backrow Politics” by Gordon Goodwin.
Of course, the four musicians of the trumpet section (three decked out in fitted graffiti hats; one, a 90’s color-tinted pair of sunglasses) stood and blared their horns in unison, creating a fun, ‘cool-kid’ vibe that greatly amused the audience.
In the next song, performed by what Thomas called his “mostly freshman ensemble” (again, audience chuckles), alto saxophonist Brian Doolittle ’14 and baritone saxophonist Devin Gibbs ’14 were featured in “All The Things You Are,” along with the animated expressions of guitarist Luke Martin ’14, as the famous melody was tossed back and forth between soloists with variations in form.
Trumpet-man Chris Bertelsen ’12 was front and center during the band’s take on “Lush Life” (Thomas, expressing it as “a very beautiful ballad”), creating rich brass lines over eerie saxophone trills.
While the concert continued on with jazz standards of the program, the main feature of the night was the series of contrafacts, arranged and by Rhiannon Ledwell ’12 and Chris Bertelsen ’12.
The most shocking moment of the concert occurred during Ledwell’s arrangement of “Blue Bossa,” which featured both Ledwell on tenor sax, as well as Thomas, on clarinet (the one piece the band leader also performed in). However, the harmonies did not come together and the piece didn’t get off the ground because of faulty tuning. Thomas actually turned around and signaled for the music to stop, with a hearty, “Sorry!” to the audience.
The bassist (Partick Martin ’13) had just switched instruments from his electric bass to his standing one resulting in the discrepancy in pitch, but luckily, the guitarist (Luke Martin ’14) was equipped with his 440 tuner, and the bassist used it to tune his upright bass.
As all of this was happening, the shocked audience nervously laughed when Thomas joked, “[Rhiannon] wrote this into the music. She said play sixteen bars and then tune.” Once the bass was finally tuned, percussionist Grant Hyun ’14 on the bongos cathartically yelled, “Wooo!” much to the audience’s delight.
The ensemble began again, this time around with tuned pitches, and the musicians executed the piece with a new, passionate gusto.
Once the shock factor of the event quickly passed, it was made clear that Thomas, and the Colby Jazz Band, were not just there to put on a show, but rather, were united together because of their shared love and passion for jazz.
While many conductors would have ‘winged it,’ and anxiously dragged through the piece till it was over, Thomas decided that the integrity of Ledwell’s arranged-piece was more important than the convention of concert status quo. It is through endearing instances like this that the Colby Jazz Band reveals a true musical passion that characterizes the group’s enthusiasm for their effort.
At the end of the performance, Thomas turned to the band and asked for all the seniors to stand up. To the audience’s bewilderment, no one musician stood, and Thomas proceeded to commend his youthful company for their effort and talent in everything they do.
All in all, the Colby Jazz Band performed an eventful concert that exploded with personality in musicianship, and creativity. Plus, Colby musicians look damn good in rainbow tie-dye.