Cassidy Pate | Reporter
A crowd gathered to witness the Baylor Jazz Ensemble’s 11th annual swing concert, “A Moonlight Serenade,” on Thursday night in Jones Concert Hall.
Director of the Wayne Fisher Jazz Program at Baylor University, Alex Parker, led this premier group of students and faculty as they brought the 1930s and ’40s to Baylor students, faculty and the Waco community.
“Swing music was characterized by very large bands, fixed, usually written arrangements, and solos by individual musicians in turn instead of group improvisation,” an unknown author said in Between the Wars: The Swing Era.
Playing a concert with music of the swing era was an idea pitched to Parker by a couple, now deceased, 12 years ago. This sparked an interest in Parker, so he made it happen the following year and has been doing it ever since.
Parker said the concert would be from the swing era of jazz which is [the] most popular era of jazz.
“It was actually the popular music of the day; during the Depression and the World War II, people wanted happy music so this was a great thing.”
With the goal of capturing the aura of the swing era for the audience, Parker made the concert $5 for general admission and free for anyone 65 and older.
This was Austin sophomore Jonathan Carruthers’ second time attending this concert.
“It was an awesome concert,” Carruthers said. “I was definitely coming back.”
Bridging the gap between those in the audience who knew the songs and those who came to experience a newfound music genre, Parker said his song selection was a combination of well-known swing hits, such as “The Way You Look Tonight” by Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern and a variety of bands’ music. Parker said it is what a well-rounded audience would like to hear.
“It’s all in the same vein, so [when] we start playing it’s all going to sound like all of those other pieces we know of,” Parker said.
Although the Baylor Jazz Ensemble holds auditions, it is not limited to music studies students. Parker said that anybody has a chance to be a part of this group.
“We have a couple of non-music majors in the ensemble … there’s grad students, undergrad students, all the way down to freshmen in the ensemble playing.”
In regards to the number of each instrument there can be in the Baylor Jazz Ensemble, there is a set instrumentation, “which is five saxophones, four or five trumpets, four or five trombones and then a rhythm section, which is piano, base, drums and guitar,” Parker said.
There were also six faculty members featured in the ensemble.
“It’s a great way to get them involved because they are a big part of our program; helping us recruit kids to come here and encouraging their students to be in the ensemble,” Parker said. “It’s just a lot of fun for them to play and a lot of fun for me and the students to be able to hear them perform.”
The ensemble spent the first two weeks of school preparing and learning the material for the concert. Parker said a few of the pieces from the set were run through once prior to the actual performance.
“ … I do that on purpose because when they play this kind of music in the real world, a lot of times you’ll just show up at the gig and read it there, so this is a little bit more like real life for them,” Parker said.
To experience the Baylor Jazz Ensemble, click here.