By Mandy Moe Pwint Tu
On a cold Thursday night in Sewanee, music-lovers trooped into St Luke’s Chapel to see the jazz ensemble perform for their end of year semester concert. The audience members were promised a longer show than their previous fall concert in October, which ran for exactly half an hour.
“It’s our big hurrah,” said Tristan Carico (C’20), who plays bass guitar for the ensemble. “It’s the culmination of what we’ve been working on the entire semester, so we’ve got some Latin music, some jazz music, just standard jazz, and a little bit of funk.”
The ensemble is comprised of a brass section, a sax section, and a rhythm section. In the brass section Reagan Lamb (C’19) and Jeremy O’Neil (C’21) play the trumpet, and Ian Storey (C’20) and Lillian Fulgham (C’21) play the trombone. The sax section is comprised of Ethan White (C’21) and Grace Rowell, a sophomore at Saint Andrews Sewanee, on alto sax, and Bryson Carter (C’18) on tenor sax and Destiny Sewell (C’19) on baritone sax.
The rhythm section includes Campbell Spain (C’21) on lead guitar, Carico on bass, Victoria Hinshaw (C’19) on piano, and Caleb Thorn (C’20) and James Dickey (C’21) on drums. They are accompanied by the vocals of Anna Burklin (C’18).
“We’ve got a lot of new players,” said Carico, referring to the freshmen in the ensemble. “We’re improving as a band and we’re trying to come together.”
The concert began with a beautiful rendition of “Alice in Wonderland,” sung by Burklin and accompanied by the rhythm section. The entire ensemble then joined in for “Blue Moon,” after which the concert was in full swing. Band members especially enjoyed playing “The Girl from Ipanema,” one of the Latin pieces of the evening, written by Antonio Carlos Jobin, and arranged for the ensemble by Professor Prakash Wright.
“I did all the arrangements for the songs where we have the vocalist singing with the band,” explains Wright. “In the configuration that the band is in, not being a full size big band, it’s difficult to find repertoire that has a vocalist, so I always try to arrange something, either one of my own compositions or standard repertoire that we can’t find sheet music for.”
“He makes it sound a lot better,” added Carter. “He writes specifically for us. A lot of people don’t understand how much work goes into that.”
The concert also featured an obligatory Christmas song, “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” which was sung by Burklin and arranged by Wright. The ensemble understood that the audience might want more Christmas songs to be performed, but were eager to make it clear that their concert was not a holiday concert.
“There is something representative of the season on the set,” said Wright. “But it’s not like we’re doing a Christmas concert where we’d be performing a complete set. It’s not something we’ve done yet but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.”
Throughout the hour-long concert, each musician in the ensemble performed a solo. While each soloist performed, the rest of the ensemble played in the background, in effect achieving a cohesion within the unit that made the music more delightful to listen to.
A robust rendition of “Hey Pocky Way” concluded the evening, which was, in its own way, a wonderful note to end on.
“Music, any kind, is transformative, and if it’s good, it does that without you thinking about it,” said Wright. “And if you can walk away from any concert in a better mood or inspired then you’ve gone to a good show. Hopefully that will happen.”