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ISSUE 118 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/6/2005

Band jazzes up Pause

By Cate Grochala
Staff Writer

Friday, May 6, 2005

Jazz I had its final concert of the year April 29. This group has had an eventful year, taking first place at the Eau Claire Jazz Festival. The ensemble is directed by Artist in Residence in Music Dave Hagedorn. This spring concert in the Pause was their time to show what they had been working on for the Eau Claire competition and to show the skills that had won them their first place honors.

The concert started out with a piece called “Jeru” by Gerry Mulligan. The piece is known as a jazz classic, originally performed by Miles Davis on his album “The Birth of the Cool.” It included a solo for the baritone saxophone, an instrument not often featured in solos. The solo was played with great finesse by Bridget Draxler ’05 .

Even members of Jazz I were represented in the evening’s repertoire. The group performed “Don’t step in the Darkness,” by band member Mike Sweeney ’05. The piece featured an alto sax solo, played by Joe Alley ‘05. The piece itself was unique, letting the ensemble show a variety of sounds. Hagedorn thanked Sweeney for writing and the audience showed their appreciation for the piece with thunderous applause.

One of the songs the group performed was carried over from their fall set. “Wyrgly” was a piece they played for the Eau Claire Jazz Festival. The composer, Maria Schneider, was present at the ensemble’s performance in Eau Claire and Hagedorn noted that “She told us we had the piece exactly right. After hearing that, we had to perform it once again for you all tonight.”

At each concert, the jazz bands have a special guest artist who performs with them. Dean Magraw was the guest artist of this concert. Hagedorn noted Magraw’s international reputation. He seemed at ease playing with the group and complimented the students for their dedication and technical skill.

Hagedorn and Magraw played well together in duets, which formed the middle portion of the concert. Some of the pieces they played were formal pieces; other times, they simply played off of one another.

Their duets were particularly effective at showing the versatility of the guitar.

The program noted the variety of musical genres which influenced Magraw, such as Indian and bluegrass; these influences were visible in the duets.

For the group’s penultimate piece, “Haitian Fight Song,” composed by jazz great Charles Mingus, Magraw asked the ensemble to, “Give me awesome feeling.” His remark generated a few laughs, but his words got results. The piece was one of the band’s most intense of the night. The six soloists featured in the piece played forcefully.

The final piece, “Soul Vaccination,” had the same solid, easy feeling as the first songs of the concert and contrasted with the high-energy piece which preceded it.

The concert lasted over two hours and the audience, a mix of St. Olaf students, parents and Northfield residents, remained large, filling the main floor and upstairs balcony. Jazz I performed nine pieces with only a brief intermission.

Nevertheless, the ensemble ceaselessly played with enthusiasm and energy.

The atmosphere of the concert was comfortable and laid-back, with Hagedorn cracking jokes to make the audience laugh between pieces; Hagedorn noted from the stage that “how long the concert takes doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that we keep doing well and having fun up here.” His remark received applause from the audience, showing that as long as Jazz I played well and enjoyed themselves, listeners would stay.

Though the concert was lengthy, the musicians of Jazz I continually affirmed themselves as passionate and confident and revealed to the St. Olaf and Northfield communities that winning first place in Eau-Claire was well-deserved.

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