Review: Jazz Professors Mesmerize Audience With Striking Ballads

The recital given by Assistant Professor of Music, Director of Jazz Studies and saxophonist Jose Encarnacion and Lecturer or Music and pianist Bill Carrothers was, admittedly, a little hard to write about. The only information on the program was the names of the two performers and the message that all musical works being performed would be announced from the stage. Unfortunately for a jazz-illiterate boy like myself, they didn’t announce the program from the stage and rather performed one jazz ballad after another. The performance was about an hour in length with a couple of pauses for words towards the end of the night. 

The stage was sparsely set up with just a piano and a couple of chairs. The most eye-catching prop was a lamp on a table to the left of the piano that had beautiful stained-glass framings. As it turns out, when the esteemed educators entered to begin their performance, all the lights in Harper Hall went down and the only source of light was the lamp that only partially illuminated the stage. The effect was such that the recital hall seemed to transform into more of a jazz club and less of a formal performance space. I felt like I was wrong for not smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey all throughout the performance. 

And would you look at that! As I write this article, Professor Encarnacion has sent me the titles of the pieces he and Professor Carrothers performed. They played several pieces by Billy Strayhorn and a couple by Thelonious Monk. Some of the other pieces included were “Haunted Heart” by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz and “I’m Beginning to See the Light” by Harry James, Duke Ellington, Don George and Johnny Hodges. That last piece was, I believe, performed as an encore after the main program, considering it was a bit grander of a performance, bouncier and more staccato as opposed to the steady, sweet sounds of the more introspective ballads that were part of the main program. There is a certain ecstasy to watching two masters of their respective crafts execute seemingly flawless renditions of seminal jazz works. The feeling of watching a faculty recital is a much different one than watching a student recital, wherein one feels as though they can view the budding mastery of a professional-in-training. The professors were truly able to make the pieces and the performance space their own (again, the lamp was a nice touch) and while I can’t speak for the rest of the audience, I felt like I was transported to a different time. 

Whilst reading up on the bios of these two men, I realized the wealth of skill and talent that the Conservatory accumulates in abundance. Both men have attended and taught in prestigious music schools, been part of world-renowned ensembles and toured around the globe. Everyone should take advantage of the not-inconsiderable amount of musical performances that happen almost every day here at Lawrence, because it is truly invigorating and educational.