Concert Jazz Ensemble swings into semester’s last performance

Baylor's Concert Jazz Ensemble performed its last concert of the semester on Tuesday night. Photo courtesy of Emma Weidmann

By Emma Weidmann | Staff Writer

Tuesday night Baylor School of Music’s Wayne Fisher Jazz Program presented the Concert Jazz Ensemble in Jones Concert Hall. As the last Concert Jazz Ensemble of the semester, this concert marked the last performance of some of the program’s seniors.

Director Alex Parker said at the commencement of the concert, “We have a couple of people who are going to be graduating and doing huge, tremendous things all over the world in the next several years.”

Two of the seniors, Spring pianist Cat Hoelscher and Copperas Cove saxophonist Jonny Wolf, were featured soloists on the fourth piece, “The Door” by Dave Brubeck.

“These members have been in the jazz ensemble almost four years, pretty much their entire time at Baylor,” Parker said.

The kind of dedication it takes to commit to rehearsal and practice time isn’t lost on the freshmen. Snoqualmie, Wash., freshman Walker Byford — one of two drummers in the ensemble — said he has learned many things from the upperclassmen, including humility and work ethic.

“You get to be in class with people who are older than you and have more experience,” Byford said. “The biggest thing I learned is definitely humility. That’s a trait that all of them have. It’s not thinking that you’re the best in the world, that you’re higher than everyone else. They spread their wisdom without spreading it in a condescending way.”

The music certainly reflected the experience and talent of the group. During the second to last piece, “One More for the Count” by Mike Lewis, Southlake freshman trombonist Chris Estridge was a featured soloist. However, it wasn’t his solo itself that commanded the audience’s attention, but rather how he played. Over the bell of his trombone, he placed the rubber part of a toilet plunger and would open and close it over the bell to muffle the sound that left the instrument.

The final piece, “Two Seconds to Midnight” by Alan Baylock, featured a guitar solo by San Antonio junior Tanner Clemons. The solo added a funky flair to the big band sound of the ensemble that hadn’t been heard in any of the pieces until that point.

However, Byford’s favorite piece was the second one the ensemble played, “Back Home” by Don Menza.

“It’s this really in-the-pocket, blues-feel tune, so I got to have a lot of fun with all of the soloists that played on it,” Byford said. “We just got to jam out with each other.”

Playing “in the pocket” is when the rhythm section, to which Byford belongs to as a drummer, is in sync and playing as a unit. Being able to play this way is only due to the 20 hours per week of intense practice that’s required to put on a concert like this. In comparison, Byford remembers playing only a few minutes worth of music in high school bands, but said rehearsal time could reach up to 40 hours.

“For this ensemble, we have 10 to 20 hours of rehearsal time for an hour’s worth of music,” Byford said. “So, it’s six times the music and half the time to rehearse. It really does take a lot more work ethic than it did in high school.”