Photo by Matt Hembree (C’20)
By Alena Churikova
On Thursday, October 28, the members of the Sewanee Jazz Ensemble presented their first semester concert in St. Luke’s Chapel dressed as bananas, greasers with bandanas, and beach-goers in shorts and tropical shirts.
“The first concert is always a good benchmark. I really liked what you guys did yesterday, although there is always room for improvement,” said Prakash Wright the day after the performance. Wright, visiting professor of music, directs the Jazz Ensemble.
Last year, the band adopted a number of changes to accommodate the group dynamic, which alters with each new class and every new member who joins.
“During my freshman year, there were enough student musicians to fill out a ‘Big Band’ or jazz orchestra. The size allowed us to play the jazz standards of the 1920s and composers like Duke Ellington, and Glenn Miller. From the beginning of my sophomore year to this semester, the size has changed to a ‘Little Big Band,’” says William Thomas (C’17), who has played in the band for three years.
“This instrumentation opens up different eras of jazz for us to play. We have played more tunes from composers from the ‘50s and ‘60s like Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, and Gil Evans. Overall the quality of musicians has been consistent through the years, which is good!” he adds.
The concert was about 40 minutes long and the audience included students, faculty, and community members. The Thursday concert consisted of music by Miles Davis, Josef Zawinul, Jimmy van Heusen, and Harry Warren, all famous jazzmen from the ‘50s through the 1970s. Almost all players are freshmen, so the experience of more senior band players was combined with the energy of new Sewanee students performing in St. Luke’s Chapel for the first time.