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ISSUE 116 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/9/2003

Student musicians jazz it up

By Carl Schroeder
Contributing Writer

Friday, May 9, 2003

St. Olaf’s Jazz I ensemble capped off a landmark year for the St. Olaf jazz program on Friday night with a concert at the Pause. The group, directed by Assistant Professor of Music Dave Hagedorn, was joined on several numbers by special guest performer Phil Hey on drums.

A highlight of the program was a performance of "Four in Transit," a new chart composed by Jazz I’s lead alto saxophone player, Michael Smith ‘05. Smith composed the aggressive, hard-swinging "Four in Transit," his second work for the jazz ensemble, during a series of late-night creative spurts earlier this year. A versatile composer who writes in a variety of styles, Smith says he finds jazz easiest to write "because it flows."

Several pieces featured solos. The slow-tempo Benny Colson chart "I Remember Clifford" featured a lyrical trumpet solo by Paul Murphy ‘03, and the sleek rock tune "Rev. Jack" included solos by baritone saxophone player Nicholas Giulani ‘03 and Justin Seningen ‘03 on guitar.

Other pieces included the experimental "Mopti" by Don Cherry, with Hagedorn on marimba, and a Billy Byers arrangement of the classic jazz standard "All of Me," originally by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simon.

Virtuoso jazz percussionist Hey manned the drum set for the band’s final three charts, providing several show-stopping solos during the Thelonius Monk tune "In Walked Bud" and a contemporary, rhythmically complex treatment of "Star Eyes," arranged by Dave Milne. For the closing number, an arrangement of George Russell’s "Ezzthetic," Jazz I pulled out all the stops in an exciting, up-tempo finale.

Jazz I has been preparing all semester for the opportunity to work with drummer Hey, who performs and tours with several local combos and leads the Jazz Combo program at the University of Minnesota.

After rehearsing with all of the St. Olaf jazz groups the previous Saturday, Hey performed at the Jazz II and III concert on April 28.

On Friday night, Hey "played with a big sound that backed up the big band well," said Chris Renk ‘05, who plays alto saxophone with Jazz I.

"In the four years I’ve been playing, I think this was the best concert we’ve had," said Giuliani.

Jazz I is one of the St. Olaf music department’s three jazz ensembles under the direction of Hagedorn. Big-name guest artists and several off-campus engagements have made 2002-2003 a banner year for Jazz I, the top ensemble of the three.

Highlights of the year have included an invitation to share the stage with the visiting Matt Wilson Quartet in March, an early-morning performance at the Minnesota Music Educators Association in February, and a set at the KBEM Winter Jazz Fest in March. A CD recording of highlights from the past several years of St. Olaf’s jazz ensembles was released earlier this year by St. Olaf Records.

"I think the program in general took a huge leap forward this year," Hagedorn said.

The St. Olaf community will have one more chance to hear the jazz program strut its stuff this year, at the spring Swing Dance May 9 at 9 p.m. in the Pause.

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