Students trumpeted a successful end to the semester on Tuesday in a “Jazz Night” showcase on December 3, directed by Music Lecturer Frank Mauceri.
Mauceri worked with two groups of musicians throughout the semester: the Jazz Ensemble and the Jazz Combo. Members of both the eight-person jazz ensemble and the six-person jazz combo agreed that this semester’s repertoire was particularly challenging. The concert included pieces like “Jive Samba,” by Nat Adderley and “Beija Flor,” by Nelson Cavaquinho.
Though some students play in the group as part of a half-credit course, many perform extracurricularly. The range of experience varies, but most students have been playing music since they were children.
“My mom used to play Paul Simon Live in Concert videos, and I used to watch that instead of cartoons,” said Rami Stucky ’14, explaining how his musical career began.
Some members of the two groups, such as Molly Ridley ’14, have been playing the same instrument they began at a young ages, while others picked theirs up when they were older.
“I chose the trombone because no one else played it,” said Tim Hunt ’14. “I had a lot of excess energy, so the slide looked like a lot of fun.”
For some students, the Bowdoin ensembles mark their first foray into jazz. Others began playing the genre in middle and high school bands.
Gibson Hartley ’16 plays saxophone and started a jazz quintet during his senior year in high school. Sam Eley ’15 has played drums since the beginning of middle school.
“I started playing jazz in sixth grade I guess,” said Eley. “I’ve been playing in small groups, like five or six people since then. It’s pretty similar to what we’re doing tonight.”
Mauceri said the varying levels of experience can be a challenge, but jazz is about collaboration.
“One of the important things of any musical ensemble is everyone’s job as an individual is to try to make the other people sound good,” said Mauceri. “People have to be sensitive to each other, listen, and play in a way that complements the others. Even though there are solos, its not really about stars, its about working together.”
Many students who play in the Ensemble and Combo are involved in other parts of the music scene on campus. Ridley explores jazz in a variety of courses such as Jazz Composition and plays off campus as frequently as she can. Hunt and Hartley both sing in a cappella groups.
Compared to their other musical endeavors, jazz allows for more personal expression.
“Less of it is about playing the music as it’s written, and more of it is about taking that and putting improvisation to it,” said Ben Pallant ’16, an alto saxophonist. “It’s actually in a way less structured than playing in a big group.”
Part of the appeal of the groups is the tendency to play with the same musicians year after year, which facilitates the intimate knowledge of musical styles and signatures that are vital to improvisation.
“Two of the players, the drummer and the vibraphone player, they’re in my year and we’ve been in the group since freshman year,” said Ridley. “It’s been really fun to go through the whole process with them and see us grow as musicians, friends, and as band colleagues.”