On Friday, Oct. 30 in Munson Chapel, APU’s School of Music hosted the 2nd Artist Concert Series of this year, featuring the APU Jazz Ensemble and Eastman School of Music professor and trumpet player Clay Jenkins.
“This is the first time we’ve had an artist play alongside the Jazz Ensemble as part of the series,” said David Beatty, who is the chair of the Department of Commercial Music, an APU associate professor and the director of Jazz Ensemble. Beatty has directed the band for 15 years, and thanks to numerous past opportunities to play together professionally. Beatty has known Jenkins for 30 years.
A total of 21 undergraduate and graduate musically talented members make up the woodwinds, trumpets, trombone and rhythm sections of Jazz Ensemble.
“It’s a very powerful-sounding group, with the energy coming from acoustic instruments, something that people don’t experience a lot,” Beatty said. “It’s a completely different kind of musical experience than being in a concert where the power of the performance comes from electronic amplification.”
“I like that Jazz Ensemble is a pleasant environment, with such a high concentration and musicality level,” said Jazz Ensemble member and junior music major Eric Croissant. “It’s my third year in it, and it’s been a lot of fun.”
During the concert, each solo highlighted the member’s talent and deep connection to their instrument and music. The ensemble performed 11 pieces, including jazz classic “A Warm Breeze” by Sammy Nestico, and “Late Bloomer” by Clay Jenkins himself.
Jenkins, who has played the trumpet for 50 years, performed six songs with the band, including five pieces that he composed himself.
“My dad played, and I loved how expressive [trumpet] was,” Jenkins said. “It allowed me to have my own individual voice.”
That freeing aspect of the jazz genre inspires musicians and attracts a growing contemporary following.
“Most students who don’t know anything about it are quite surprised at how exciting and fun it really is,” Beatty explained. “It’s a very current art form.”
Senior music major Bo Steele was not exposed to jazz before coming to APU, and began listening to jazz at the suggestion of his peers.
“I like Snarky Puppy and classical jazz,” said Steele. “I joined Jazz Combo, which really sparked my interest in jazz.”
Sophomore commercial music major Lindsey Yamane said she just began playing jazz pieces on the piano. “It’s very colorful in its tones,” Yamane said. “It has its own specific feel.”
During the concert, audience members also got a brief glimpse of the hilarity that ensues behind the scenes in Jazz Ensemble.
As the band prepared to play the last piece of the night, the lights suddenly went out. Some band members took the opportunity to play an eerie tune from “The Twilight Zone,” while other members hooted and hollered when the lights came back on. Overall, however, Jazz Ensemble presented a professional-level performance and demonstrated the members’ mastery of a variety of jazz styles, resulting in a night of music magic.
“[Jazz Ensemble was] so gracious and prepared, and just so musically great,” said Jenkins, who added that he enjoyed his experience collaborating with the band.
If you missed the concert, just listen to Jazz Ensemble’s recent recording, “Breaking Out,” which covers the sweet sounds of the 1930s to the latest hits.
Jazz Ensemble also hosts an annual joint concert called Battle of the Big Bands with Citrus College’s Jazz Ensemble. The next Battle of the Big Bands will be held on March 17 and 18.
For more information about APU Jazz Ensemble and its upcoming performances, visit www.apu.edu/cma/music/ensembles/windspercussion/#jazzensemble.