Jazz ensemble chooses unconventional pieces

The Baylor Jazz Ensemble will have a concert at 7:30 p.m. tonight in Jones Concert Hall.
The Baylor Jazz Ensemble will have a concert at 7:30 p.m. tonight in Jones Concert Hall.
The Baylor Jazz Ensemble will have a concert at 7:30 p.m. tonight in Jones Concert Hall.
(Courtesy Art)

By Connor Yearsley

Tonight Baylor Jazz Ensemble concert will include everything from Count Basie to Radiohead.

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Jones Concert Hall in the Glennis McCrary Music Building and is free and open to the public.

“This is a concert where there will be literally something for almost everybody,” said Alex Parker, senior lecturer and director of jazz studies.

In its first concert of the semester, the ensemble will perform Maria Schneider’s “The Pretty Road,” which Parker said will be somewhat unconventional.

“It’s a little different than most stuff you hear,” Parker said.

Parker, who often has a hard time choosing a favorite piece from the programs he selects, said “The Pretty Road” is his favorite from this group of musical pieces.

“I love that tune,” he said.

The piece will partially feature guest vocalist and Woodway senior, Megan Gackle and guest accordionist Travis Worsham, Joaquin master’s candidate in piano performance.

“When soloing here, I just try to convey the melody and musical meaning in the most effective and moving way possible,” Worsham said.

Although Worsham is an experienced musician, he said this is his first experience with the accordion, which he described as a tricky instrument. “It’s been a lot of fun,” he said.

The accordion part was written into the piece and is the only piece on the program that will utilize the instrument.

Worsham thinks “The Pretty Road” will be the audience’s favorite piece. “It has everything—great melody—combines old classic sounds with new experimental sounds, soars and climaxes in all the right places,” he said. “It’s a perfect tune.”

Boerne senior Jordan Neumann, drummer in the ensemble, also said “The Pretty Road” is his favorite piece from the concert because it’s just “really pretty.”

The middle section of the piece was composed at Baylor when Schneider was visiting in December 2005.

Also on the program is Michael Philip Mossman’s “Cubauza,” a salsa that both Parker and Neumann said they suspect will be a crowd pleaser. “I think the audience’s favorite song will be ‘Cubauza’ because it will make them want to dance,” Neumann said.

Parker said the program still presents its challenges to the 17-member ensemble.

He said he thinks the two most difficult pieces are Sammy Nestico’s “Magic Flea,” because it’s fast and technically challenging, and “The Pretty Road,” because it requires a lot of finesse.

Bill Holman’s baseball-inspired “No Joy In Mudville” will place emphasis on the ensemble’s saxophone section.

Also, Nelson Riddle’s arrangement of “When You’re Smiling” will shine the spotlight on guest vocalist Lonnie Reed.

Fred Strum’s arrangement of English rock band Radiohead’s “Bodysnatchers” and John Clayton’s arrangement of “Day By Day” will also be performed.

Parker said he is excited for the concert and the opportunity to perform for people.

“I’m excited for all of them,” Parker said. “It’s just fun to play. That’s why we do what we do.”

Neumann said he is also looking forward to the concert.

“I feel like Michael J. Fox in ‘Homeward Bound’ when he finally returns home,” Neumann said.

Parker said the program helps the ensemble learn many different styles of music and work on improvisation and playing as a team. He said he’s confident in the ensemble’s preparedness.

“They’re ready to go,” he said. “It’s going to be fun. Just don’t tell them that, because there’s always something to be improved on, but they’re doing well,” he said.

Parker encourages people to come support student musicians and see them learn their craft.

“This will be a great one to come to,” he said. “We want to entertain.”