Whitworth Jazz Program hits a high note in the 2014 season

On Oct. 30, 2014 at 8 p.m. in the recital hall of the Music Building, about 80 people showed up to watch and listen to the Jazz Combos in Concert. Half of the audience were parents, and the other half were students. “There were a few more people than usual,” sophomore Lauren Trittin said.

The first segment was of the band Tricom consisting of the guitar, piano and bass instruments.

The second segment featured the band Cold Mukluk Time, which had alto sax, tenor sax, guitar, bass, vibes and drums instruments. Audience members, including parents, were nodding their heads to the fast and upbeat song “Fall” by Wayne Shorter.

The Jazz Ensemble program focuses on the fundamentals of jazz, while incorporating improvisation and swing style. Throughout performances, each musician was given time to skillfully play one or more solo pieces.

“I’m a psychology and theology double major, but I come to these performances because my friends are in them and I like jazz in general,” Trittin said.

Many of the musicians were freshmen, performing in a small group setting for the first time. The last song played by the Tricom band was called “11 and 3” and was written by freshman Denin Koch, who explained that the song was inspired by how often he believed the number three happened in daily life.

“I was nervous, but it was exciting. I’m usually more comfortable playing in a big band,” freshman Josh Nay, who was on percussion, said.

The musicians’ passions for music were evident in their performance. The jazz ensemble musicians take private lessons independently, then reconvene with each other to practice more and go through what they’ve each learned.

“When you’re passionate about something, it brings balance to your life. With the insanity of school, I look forward to practicing for an hour or getting to beat on a drumset for a rehearsal,” junior Jansen Leggett, who played vibes, said.

There was also a sense of comradery between the musicians. Whenever one musician was performing a solo piece, the others would watch and smile in assurance of their ability to finish the piece flawlessly.

“When people are writing jazz compositions and aren’t sure what to do with the percussion portion, I’ll often help them with it,” Leggett said.

On Nov. 6 at 5:30 p.m., Grammy Award winner Arturo Sandoval celebrated his 65th birthday with Whitworth students and middle and high schoolers from the Spokane area for a jazz clinic. Sandoval came from a poor family and did not have any connection to music as a young child. When he was 10 years old, he joined a marching band in his village.

“You can be rich of money but poor of heart,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval mainly learned to play music by ear and had few formal lessons. He explained his belief that to become a good musician, you must first imitate your idols, then emulate their sound, and then create music yourself. During the clinic, he heard a cell phone ring that sounded like a bird, and then played a song based on the sound on the piano that he made up on the spot.

On Nov. 7 at 8 p.m., Whitworth students and people of the Spokane community filled Cowles auditorium to watch the Whitworth Jazz Ensemble play alongside Sandoval. They laughed and cheered to Sandoval’s skilled bebop stylings.

Sandoval also played an improvisational piano piece that made everyone feel as though they were part of an important moment in Whitworth history.

Sandoval was the protege of jazz master Dizzy Gillespie, who was the first musician to bring Latin influences into American jazz. Sandoval has played for many award shows with famous musicians such as Celine Dion, Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys. Not only is he an incredibly talented jazz trumpeter, but he is also known for his extensive skills as a fluegelhorn player, pianist, composer and overall classical artist. He regularly performs with leadings symphony orchestras around the world.

The next Jazz Combos in Concert performance will be on Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. in the Music Recital Hall in the Music Building.

 

Rachelle Robley and Courtney Murphy

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