Jazz Ensemble stays in tune with improv, eclectic styles
A display of improvisation is returning to Jones Concert Hall. This is the second concert by the Baylor Jazz Ensemble following its swing-themed performance earlier in the semester.
The 18 members of the ensemble will perform songs of varying styles. Alex Parker, director of jazz studies, said the preparation for the varied program will be different than it was for the first concert of the year.
“We do one at the very beginning of the year that’s an all swing concert,” Parker said. He said the small amount of preparation is a result of the nature of the swing genre.
For Monday’s performance, the ensemble rehearses two days a week. Parker said the musicians are almost like professionals when they come in for the practices.
“They walk in the door with the notes learned, the rhythms learned and it’s our job as an ensemble to put it all together,” Parker said.
Two-year ensemble member John Romero spent two years in the Concert Jazz Ensemble. The Longview senior said the difference in styles for pieces in this concert will be the biggest shift from the swing concert.
“We’re playing a lot of different tunes and different styles so we’ll be changing it up quite a bit,” Romero said.
Romero plays the trombone and will be soloing on the song “Groove Merchant” by Jerome Richardson and arranged by Thad Jones. Parker described the piece as a gospel-blues shuffle.
“This is a great example of the hard-bop era of jazz,” Parker said. He said the two styles that dominated the era were gospel and blues and that “Groove Merchant” highlights both styles well.
Following “Groove Merchant,” the ensemble will play “A Shade of Jade.” The Woodlands sophomore Michael Incavo plays tenor saxophone in the group and is looking forward to having his instrument featured in the second tune.
“The whole thing is really a tenor sax feature and we’re going to divide it up between us so it should be a lot of fun,” Incavo said. He said both he and the second tenor sax will have a chance to solo on the piece.
Incavo, who transferred this year from the University of North Texas, said he was pleasantly surprised to find a jazz ensemble at Baylor.
“At UNT, jazz is a real focus of the school,” Incavo said. He said he didn’t expect to find a jazz group in a smaller university setting. “I met Alex Parker when I came to take a tour of the school and he mentioned there was a great jazz band here.”
Following his transfer, Incavo went through the ensemble’s auditioning process.
“I never liked auditioning, but Alex made it as simple as possible,” Incavo said.
Parker said the process involves learning a piece before coming to the audition, a sight-reading portion and, finally, an opportunity to show off improvisation skills on a pre-selected track.
“It takes about five to seven minutes a person and on that last Sunday before school starts, I post who’s in the band and we get started rehearsing the first week,” Parker said.
Frisco senior Ben Hauser is in his third year with the ensemble. He said the audition process is the most relaxed he’s ever been through. Hauser plays trumpet and is a part of multiple other groups within the Music Department.
“That’s why it’s nice to be a student because if you make a mistake you don’t get fired,” Hauser said. “I figure out what I’m good at and I get to gain experience from the things I’m not so good at.”
Hauser plays trumpet in the ensemble and is looking forward to the upcoming performance.
“Its one of the more relaxed concerts and it’s a lot of fun,” Hauser said. “Everyone in the jazz band loves playing it, otherwise they wouldn’t be with the group.”
The concert, which features seven jazz pieces of varying styles, is free and open to the public. The ensemble will play at 7:30 p.m. Monday in Jones Concert Hall in the Glennis McCrary Music Building.