LUJE and Jazz Band celebrate Jazz Weekend

On Saturday, Nov. 5, the Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend continued with performances from the Lawrence University Jazz Band and Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble (LUJE) in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The song selection featured a wide range of jazz that excited and inspired the audience.

The performance commenced with the Jazz Band’s first tune, “Rat Race” by Richard De LaRosa. The band was directed by José Encarnación, Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies. Encarnación directed the band with an incomparable amount of energy and joy. The song featured an outstanding soprano saxophone solo by senior Matt Wolke as well as other soloists. A steady groove between bass and drums pulsed throughout, which peaked during a bass solo by sophomore Sam Taylor that particularly excited the audience.

Jazz Band also played “Song With Orange” by Charles Mingus. This piece was arguably their tightest tune; the band captured Mingus’ distinct style very well. Freshman Nick Muellner’s saxophone solo was exceptionally impressive. It radiated with energy, and Muellner showed off his skill and range. Subsequently, the crowd roared its approval. The backgrounds throughout the solo section swung hard, and the song ended in the dissonance of many instruments screaming over one another. This song ended the Jazz Band’s set on a high note.

Next, LUJE took the stage, directed by Instructor of Music Patty Darling. Because Jazz Band performed so well, the audience awaited LUJE with anticipation – and rightfully so. Their set began with a piece by Darling herself entitled “Summit.” LUJE played with an extreme attention to detail and featured effortlessly resplendent solos by seniors Jack Breen on saxophone and Matt Blair on piano, to name only two.

Saxophones were replaced with clarinets mostly in the next song, and it provided for a completely different texture. The tune was “FM” by Steely Dan, arranged for big band by Fred Sturm. The Cubs flag adorning the stage also commemorated Sturm, who passed in 2014. Senior Jakob Heinneman supplied a groove on electric bass to which the audience could not sit still. It also featured impressive solos by junior Caleb Rosenthal on guitar and senior Sam Pratt on saxophone.

Finally, LUJE concluded the afternoon with Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton’s “Black Bottom Stomp”—an upbeat, fast-paced and danceable song from the 1920s. The clarinet and piano captured this New Orleans style particularly well. Stride piano, a particularly difficult style to play, was performed impressively by Blair. The ensemble played the style of this piece incredibly well; it was a step back in time. After the song ended, the crowd buzzed with excitement—both bands were a joy to hear. This resolution came across strongly through the smiles on the faces of members of the audience as they exited the Chapel.