The student weekly of St. Olaf College
Manitou Messenger: Students play all that jazz

Students play all that jazz

By Cate Grochala
Contributing Writer
Friday, May 7, 2004

In what could be described as "jazz weekend" at St. Olaf, clusters of small, round tables were set up in front of the stage in the Pause on Friday and Saturday night, turning the venue into a jazz club. Jazz I performed a concert on April 30, followed by Jazz II and III in a joint concert on May 2.

All three jazz bands were directed by music professor Dave Hagedorn. Each semester Hagedorn invites a guest artist to join the bands; Dr. Garth Alper, a professor and jazz instructor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, was the artist joining the bands for this weekends performances.

Jazz I started the double concert weekend on Friday night with a piece by Toshiko Akiyoshi, appropriately titled "Tuning Up." It was a good piece to start the concert, providing a solid opening that gave the band a foundation on which to build more intensity and animation.

The next piece, led by Mike Sweeney '05, gave the evening an international flavor. Sweeney became interested in Indonesian composition over Interim, when the music department borrowed traditional Indonesian Gamelan instruments and a Gamelan instructor led a workshop on campus . As a result of this experience, Sweeney led Don Cherrys Brown Rice, which contained elements of the Gamelan scales.

The upbeat feel of pieces continued with three pieces by Dan Cavanagh and the traditional favorites "Autumn in New York/How about You" and "Smoke and Mirrors," which closed the second half of the concert.

Intermission for both concerts consisted of duets performed by Alper and Hagedorn, two of which were pieces written by Alper, titled "Rising Tide" and "Fiddlin." These songs provided a low-key transition between sets at the Jazz I concert and between bands at the Jazz II and III concert. They also emphasized Alpers solo skills and Hagedorn's talent as a percussionist.

Jazz III took center stage first on Sunday night, beginning with a selection titled "Out of Nowhere." Like the opening song of Friday nights concert, "Out of Nowhere" had a laid-back feel to it, giving the band a chance to work into faster tempos.

A focus of the jazz band program at St. Olaf is learning to improve listening skills and internalize rhythms by learning pieces by ear; Jazz III learned "The Coaster" by this method. The musicians apparently learned well by this method, because the piece was strong and performed as solidly as those that the musicians had practiced first from sheet music.

Jazz II opened with the intense piece "Groovin Hard," which featured a tenor saxophone solo by Doug Stone 05. This fast tempo and ambience continued with "Afro Blue," a piece infused with an Afro-Cuban beat, which Jazz II had learned by ear.

Jazz II included a violin, a non-traditional jazz instrument, played by Kale Olson-Reed '06. The violin worked well with the ensemble and added a unique, synthesizer-like sound to it.

The next selection, "Boplicity," featured the weekends only baritone saxophone solo, performed with great finesse by Bridget Draxler 06.

While the jazz ensembles concert repertoire generally consists of modern jazz, reserving Big Band era works for swing dances, "First Love Song" was an exception Itt began with a gentle piano solo performed by Alper and other instruments from the ensemble gradually joined in.

The concert closed with "Good News" by Bob Mintzer. A high energy piece, featuring solos by Phyllip Johnson 06 on trombone, Jostein Reiners 06 on alto saxophone and a duet section with Brian Hanson 04 and Grant Randall 07 both on trombone. It was a strong end to the culmination of the year in jazz at St. Olaf.

The Manitou Messenger is a student publication of St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn. It is published weekly during the academic year except during vacations, exam periods and interim. The cost for one year's subscription is $45.00. Postage is paid in Northfield, Minnesota. Manitou Messenger
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