Music students perform improv in Thursday’s jazz recital

SVSU jazz students performed at their first recital of the semester to a nearly full audience in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall.

The Thursday, Sept. 27, recital consisted of two jazz combos and the full jazz band, each of which played jazz standards ranging from Charlie Parker to Duke Ellington.

The first jazz combo consisted of younger musicians, and the second featured more experienced players.

The full band was directed by artist-inresidence Seth Ebersole.

Freshman tenor saxophonist Audrey Bergey said rehearsals leading up to the recital were productive.

She said members had practiced individually to ensure rehearsal time was not wasted on learning individual parts.

“As a member of an ensemble, it’s important to understand your own part before rehearsing with others so that we can refine other details, such as dynamics, balance, articulations and the like,” she said.

Junior pianist Andrew Ratajczak said he learned a lot about improv during rehearsals.

“Every minute was a positive learning experience about not only how to improvise, but also how to approach the piano in a jazz concept, which Ebersole demonstrated very well,” he said.

During the recital, each combo and the full ensemble played with guest alto saxophonist Clark Gibson. On Saturday night, Gibson played selections from his tribute to famous jazz musician Charlie Parker with local musicians.

Two singers were featured during the recital, including Halie Kellett during the second combo. The band accompanied her on John Kelnner and Sam Lewis’s “Just Friends.”

During the full jazz ensemble performance, Sarah Evans sang Spencer Williamsons’ “Basin Street Blues.”

The audience was engaged during each performance. Each band gave energetic sforzandos that were contrasted with soulful vibratos and intricate falls. While the leads were loud and bombastic, no section attempted to take over the sound, but rather they changed their volume so each part could be heard.
Several students had solos throughout the evening, including Ratajczak, who had six. During Ratajczak’s rag-styled piano solo, bandmates hollered and clapped, gaining cheers and laughs from the audience.

“To help me prepare those solos, I would listen to the arrangement while following along in the chart to get a feel for each piece,” he said. “I would then apply that to how I would solo while adding a personal touch to each.”

Beregy said she thought the recital went well.

“I believe I played my best for the recital,” she said. “I had so much fun and, sometimes, we all need to learn to relax and enjoy the moment.”

She said the musicians have enjoyed playing with each other this semester.

“So far, the ensemble seems to be having fun and getting into the music,” she said. “It was a good atmosphere to be in.”

Ratajczak also enjoyed performing with the ensemble.

“The recital was an awesome experience,” he said. “My fellow classmates and I had a blast. I felt that we, as a group, represented jazz very well.”

The ensemble received a standing ovation at the end of the evening.

Psychology junior Christian Edwards said it was well-deserved.

“I am glad I went to the concert, and I will go to another one if they play again,” he said. “Highlights for me would definitely
be the singers. … The voices carried the songs, and the playing was also good, too.”

Ratajczak said some pieces connected the performers with the audience.

“‘Jelly Roll’ was a fan favorite for sure,” he said. “Everyone in the ensemble, especially the soloists, were really getting into it.”

He said the song had a unique style and compared it to other pieces from the recital.

“This piece, among the rest from the program, was a different style. It added to the excitement of the variety of jazz styles played.”

Kaitlyn Farley

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