Alto saxophonist plays concert with local musicians

Photo from Bridget Cusick

The music department hosted alto saxophonist Clark Gibson in “Birds with Strings” on Saturday, Sept. 28, in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall.

Gibson has studied jazz music for many years and teaches clinics around the country.

In 2015, he released a collection of songs originally arranged for musician Charlie Parker, the inspiration for Saturday’s concert.

“Charlie Parker was strings,” Gibson said. “(I’ve) been a fan my whole life. He had me hooked.”

Gibson spent the beginning of the week sitting in on music classes and teaching master classes of his own.

During the master class, Gibson had students and musicians from the area improv and perform with him.

He said he had “a wonderful time working with the students.”

The first piece of the evening, “Just Friends,” was said to be one of Parker’s most well-known performance pieces.

Gibson performed the song with a small orchestra made up of SVSU music faculty and local musicians. He described the song as making music history.

“(It) turned American music on its head … coming out of the strings era,” Gibson said. “Critics hated it. Audiences loved it.”

The musicians then performed arrangements of “Easy to Love,” “Summertime” and “Rocker Iaka Rock Salti” while Gibson played several solos.

The next piece was “Stardust,” made famous by the likes of Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Sinatra.

For the final song of the set, Gibson invited jazz artist-in-residence Seth Ebersole to the stage. The two alternated playing solos on the alto saxophone.

After intermission, the group played “They Didn’t Believe Me,” “Gold Rush” and “Everything Happens to Me.”

Gibson shared with the audience how a music producer in New York had come to him with the idea of recording arrangements made for Parker.

“It was quite an honor,” he said. “(These songs were) from the project he never got to play.”

The next two songs, “You Go to My Head” and “I Cover the Waterfront,” went in a different direction compared to the night’s previous selections. Both songs gave highlight to each section in the orchestra, ensuring every instrument was heard.

Gibson expressed gratitude to be able to perform with them and praised their abilities.

“We only had one rehearsal, last night,” he said. “Charlie Parker is not easy. … They’re doing a great job.”

Ebersole rejoined the group for the final piece. He and Gibson took turns performing elaborate solos.

As with the previous pieces, each section was given a moment to solo.

Students loved the concept of the “dueling saxophones.” Music senior Kat Wahl described the performance as having “heavy communication” and a feeling “specific to jazz.”

Tiara Phillips, another music senior, said she admired the oboe solos and the involvement of Ebersole.

“I really loved the saxophone duet,” she said. “It was like a little competition.”

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