Jazz performance flawlessly tackles complex music

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Taylor Faw

Jazz fans gathered on Thursday, March 3 in Radford University’s Covington Center for a double dose of musical performance featuring the RU Jazztet followed by the RU Concert Jazz Ensemble.

The Jazztet kicked off the night with “A Tribute to Miles.” A homage to trumpeter Miles Davis, the group paid their respects through the music of one of the most innovative jazz arrangers and performers to ever pick up an instrument. The Jazztet took the audience on a relentless journey through some of his most familiar standards and modal tunes like “Freddie Freeloader,” “Solar” and “All Blues.”  The septet consisted of a concrete rhythm section, saxophones and the mighty trombone of Paul Hamilton. Musicianship was strong as each player got in their share of solos.

After the Miles medley, the RU Concert Jazz Ensemble took the stage for some big-band action. The musical mob of 18 players was directed by RU music professor Dr. Christopher White. In addition to the original members of the Jazztet, a handful of trumpets, bones and saxes were brought into the musical fray. The syncopation between the rhythm section and powerful horns was what really made the group tight. Blasts of brass and woodwind really pronounced that big band jazz feel, often combined with elements of swing.

Unlike the Jazztet, the Concert Jazz Ensemble’s repertoire was a mixed bag, at least in regard to composers. Featuring works from renowned artists Bob Mintzer, Charles Mingus and Sammy Nestico, there was a little something to offer even the most refined jazz-nut out there.

Anime fanatics enjoyed a powerful interpretation of “Tank!,” also known as, the theme song to “Cowboy Bebop.’ This Yoko Kanno tune, which is more often the soundtrack to Japanese animation than something to be performed by a school jazz band, could easily have been the highlight of the night. The band flawlessly tackled the piece’s furious rhythms and melodies of secret agent-esque.

Dr. White even stepped aside while drummer Cody Kesling directed the group during a lighthearted “Good News.”

Presented by the RU Department of Music, this display from the Jazztet and Concert jazz Ensemble was just one of the many performances hosted in the Covington Center. Although the performance hall wasn’t necessarily packed, there was still a decent audience turn out consisting of students, parents, faculty and curious jazz heads.

Upcoming student events include the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on March 30 and the day-long New River Valley Jazz Festival featuring combos from all around the area on April 15.