In what has now become a tradition, the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble (LUJE) spent another swinging evening at Rik’s Café on Wednesday night, premiering four student compositions and featuring six seniors on standard charts. A student-led concert, performers and composers had the chance to rehearse and conduct the band for LUJE’s final performance in the Warch Campus Center this school year.
After two terms of studying jazz composition and arranging with Kimberly-Clark Professor of Music and Director of Jazz and Improvisational Music Fred Sturm, four students completed a big band arrangement of a standard for their final project. The first tune was a composition by junior Henry Gergen, who made his own version of saxophonist Charlie Parker’s “Scrapple From the Apple.” A perfect concert opener, Gergen showed off the band’s power with thick walls of sound by the brass and saxophones as well as the agility and lightness necessary for this quick tune.
Fifth year Shauna McFaul then presented her arrangement of tenor saxophonist John Coltrane’s “Naima.” McFaul, a music education major, went into this project hoping to learn how to arrange challenging and fun charts for middle school-aged students interested in jazz. She explained how the most challenging part of writing was simplifying this rather complex tune while still maintaining its essence. Full of rich textures and smooth colors, McFaul is already prepared for her first concert conducting her own jazz students.
LUJE then performed senior Will Klein’s adaptation of “Sweet and Lovely,” a tune originally by Arnheim, Moret and Tobias. Klein’s writing wove in and out of denser ensemble soli sections and sweetly singing melodic moments all the while playing with syncopating swing rhythms. Senior Harrison Keeshin then closed the student composition portion with his arrangement of pianist Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence.” Quirky and full of personality, Keeshin clearly adapted Monk’s style in his use of offset rhythms and crunchy chords.
The second portion of the concert gave the ensemble’s seniors a chance to lead their own tunes and present it to the audience. Trombonist Chris Misch brought us back to our roots with Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm,” followed by trumpeter Rob Goodwin’s rendition of the classic “Summertime.” Next came “one of the happiest tunes in jazz,” “Bye, Bye Blackbird,” re-marked and performed by trumpeter Jake Wiele.
Moving out of the brass section, senior baritone saxophonist Evan Johnson composed his own poetry for the audience to introduce his slow, swinging blues “Out of Back of the Barn,” mimicking the legendary Gerry Mulligan with soulful barks and an all-encompassing sound. Next came bassist and composer Keeshin’s feature on “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” giving him a chance to show his melodic side as he lead from the back of the band.
Drummer Patrick Marschke concluded the concert with his burning version of “The Way You Look Tonight,” creating constant dialogue with the band with short solos and rhythmic hits. All in all it was a concert by students, for students. Join LUJE and Instructor of Jazz and Improvisational Music José Encarnacion for a night of Latin mambos, rumbas and salsa on Friday, May 31 in the Chapel for their final concert of the school year!