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Jazz group to perform final concert of 2010

Nov. 18, 2010

Matt Hellman | Lariat Photographer
The Baylor Jazz Ensemble performs Sept. 23 in Jones Concert Hall in the Glennis McCrary Music Building.

By Liz Appling

The Baylor Jazz Ensemble will present its third and final concert of the semester at 7:30 today in Jones Concert Hall in the McCrary Music Building.

The free concert today will feature a wide range of music, including tunes from the earliest parts of big band as well as modern big band music.

The ensemble, led by Alex Parker, director of the Baylor Jazz Program,will present eight different selections, including a song called "Sugar Rum Cherry" by Duke Ellington, a well-known jazz composer and pianist.

The performance will close with a finale of "Minuano Six-Eight" by Pat Metheny, a modern jazz guitarist, and Lyle Mays.

Wildomar, Calif., senior Kassie Light said the finale piece is her favorite of the selections.

"It's a really great piece. It has just got so much character," Light said. "I am really excited about our concert. I feel like Mr. Parker has chosen a lot of really challenging music that pushes the ensemble to be better."

The music that will be played tonight is not the only challenging aspect of the jazz genre.

"The biggest thing we do that none of the other ensembles do is improvisation," Parker said. "Improvisation is a big part of the jazz language. Basically what that means is we have students that will stand up in front of the audience, and they compose on the spot. Their sole responsibility is to make up a new melody."

Parker said improvisation is probably one of the most difficult things to do in music because it requires more than just standing up and performing.

"The piano, bass and drums will continue to play the harmony that is in the song that we're playing, and the student will go and make a new melody up on the spot."

Parker said the improvising students cannot just play whatever they want because they need to stay within the confines of what the harmony is and make the piece rhythmically make sense with the music going on around them.

Light said being a member of the Jazz Ensemble has also improved her sightreading and ear training as a musician.

"You have to really know your part because usually you are the only one playing that part in a big band ensemble," Light said.

"I love being in the Jazz Ensemble, especially because Mr. Parker is such an influential teacher," Light said. "He makes us all really love jazz. It takes a really great person to facilitate that."

The ensemble is a class that meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays and consists of 20 students ranging from freshmen to graduate level.

The group is a full big band ensemble with five saxophones, four trombones, five trumpets and a rhythm section. The ensemble plays everything from modern jazz to music from the swing era.

"We play music from the earliest part of jazz around the 1920s all the way up until stuff that has been written in the past year," Parker said.

The students are mostly music majors, but there are several non-music majors as well.

They present three concerts per semester on campus and participate in various off-campus performances as well.

Bay City senior Daniel Webbon said the group is one of the largest jazz performing groups on campus.

Austin senior Michael Culbertson said the music read in the Jazz Ensemble is extremely challenging.

Culbertson said the group plays a significant amount of music per concert, noting the eight pieces that will be performed today.