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Jazz Bassist Duane Edwards and ensemble perform new album “Birds” in Studzinski Hall

February 24, 2023

Carolina Weatherall
BEST IN BASS: Bassist Duane Edwards performs with an ensemble—which included members of the College’s faculty—in Studzinski Hall. The group played songs from Edwards’s new album “Birds.”

On Friday evening, Duane Edwards played selections from his new jazz album “Birds” with a talented ensemble in Studzinski Hall.

Despite the inclement weather, attendance was strong and the audience’s reviews were enthusiastic.

“[My favorite part of the performance] was the way they closed it out with the Nirvana cover,” Brooks Peters ’23 said. “I think the synergy between the guitar and bass was really cool. It was a song I recognized. Duane said it was a toe-tapper, and I was definitely feeling the rhythm.”

Edwards is a Jazz bass professor and directs ensembles at Bowdoin College. “Birds” is to be released in late Spring. The album is unique in its combination of jazz and rock sensibilities.

“I think of [my music] more in the spirit of rock and roll,” Edwards said. “[I’m not] trying to make something that’s disjunct in a tonal [way] for the sake of being weird, but trying to think of these as more like tonal color palettes.”

Edwards recorded the album with drummer Alex Ouellette and guitarist Evan Haine, both of whom were part of the ensemble on Friday.

Friday’s live performance differed from the studio recording of the album with the addition of extra instruments.

“The recorded album is a different experience than the live performance,” Edwards said. “Because in the recording process, you have the ability to layer and track and add more things.”

The trio combined forces with the Bowdoin faculty. Tracy McMullen, Associate Professor of Music, played the saxophone and Eric LaPerna, Director of the Middle Eastern Ensemble, helped out with percussion.

“I was lucky to have Dr. McMullen and Eric LaPerna join me to … augment the songs and make them bigger,” Edwards said. “Tracy has, in her setup, lots of great sounds and extra things that she can do beyond just the standard horn, which I thought was intriguing for this performance.”

Each musician brought their own unique touch to the performance.

“[Evan Haines] is able to bring a lot of noise and emotive sounds that you can’t get with standard clean jazz guitar playing,” Edwards said. “Alex [Ouellette] is just really great on drums.… His great ears and time sensitivity is able to just kind of adapt to anything that’s going on around him.”

The performance’s location in Studzinski Hall added to the sensory experience.

“This was the first time I’ve seen live music in [Studzinski],” Peters said. “Obviously you expect the acoustics to be very cool, and it was cool to see it in action.”

The concert is one of many live performances organized by Bowdoin’s Music Department in Studzinski. Edwards commended the College’s use of its resources to increase students’ interaction with less mainstream music.

“I think it’s great that Bowdoin is able to fund and cultivate this kind of music … because I do think outside of college institutions and academia a lot of this music wouldn’t really survive at the whims of the free market,” Edwards said. “I do think the fact that Bowdoin is supporting [unconventional music] and giving it a platform and presence does help present it in a way to the regular audience that might not necessarily come to it on their own volition.”

As the audience scattered into the evening, Edwards hoped that his “weird and interesting songs” influenced how students perceive music as a form of art.

“I just hope that [the audience] took away … the interesting nature of the color of sound,” Edwards said. “You know, art for art’s sake is totally cool.”


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