Photo by Lucy Wimmer
By Anna Mann
On Thursday, March 9, the Sewanee Jazz Ensemble performed its mid-semester concert with lively performances from artists such as Josef Zawinul, Sammy Cahn, Wayne Shorter, and Jimmy Van Heusen. The band played selections from the American Songbook and had arrangements from artists Mark Taylor, Prakash Wright, Michael Philip Mossman, and Mike Tomaro.
The University ensemble includes six horns and a full rhythm section of drums, bass, piano, and guitar. Each artist seemed to enjoy performing for the attendees, playing songs that seemed more suited to an old-fashioned swing club than the gothic chapel.
Although Wilder McCoy (C’20) claims he’s no “jazz aficionado,” he played his electric guitar just as comfortably as the rest of the band played their instruments, and explained, “You can’t really hear electric guitar much for jazz, it’s usually just for solos.”
After explaining the merits of his instrument within the genre, he went on to talk about how he began playing guitar. With no formal learning, McCoy started playing as a junior in high school and joined the jazz ensemble as their guitarist during first semester of his freshmen year. He enjoys messing around and learning new things in his spare time but appreciates the concerts as well.
“My favorite song is Birdland,” he stated near the end of the interview. “It’s fast-paced, has a boogie woogie beat, and you can get down to it.”
Unlike McCoy, Alex Ding (C’19) joined the ensemble unexpectedly when the schedule of the previous bassist conflicted with practice. Ding enjoys playing in the band but admits “it’s been interesting” due to his training as a classical pianist.
“It feels like an adventure. You have to go through everything and not make mistakes,” he elaborated.
Long-time drummer Caleb Thorn (C’20) said that he joined since “they didn’t have a drummer this semester and needed someone. The last drummer suggested my name to the band since I’ve played in jazz bands before.”
Throughout the performance, Thorn switched between mallets, drum sticks, and brushes multiple times within a single song. He admitted, “It was kind of tricky, but I used to play for my school in the senior play, so I’ve had to play multiple instruments grabbing different sticks at once.”
Much like McCoy, Thorn agreed that “any excuse to mess around with some music is good enough for me.”