Jazz band plays ‘quirky’ concert

Anna Lang

To kick off the fall semester, the NMU Jazz Band and Combos will be performing a tribute to pianist Thelonius Monk 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7 in the Reynolds Recital Hall.

According to music professor and jazz band and combo director Mark Flaherty, Monk is a well-known piano player and composer from the Bebop Era.

The Bebop Era took place from 1940 to 1955 and “had the effect of removing jazz from the mainstream of popular music,” according to the Jazz in America website. The movement was centered in New York City, and was “music for listening instead of dancing.”

Other important bebop jazz artists include Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald, according to Jazz in America.

“[Monk] was probably one of the more eccentric figures in jazz — both his personality and in terms of music,” Flaherty said. “His music has a lot of surprises in it. There’s a lot of interesting harmonies.”

The melodies can best be described as “quirky,” according to Flaherty.

The jazz band, which is composed of saxophones, trombones, trumpets, piano, drums, guitar and bass, will play four to five pieces. The two combos, which are smaller groups of students, will play two to three pieces each.

Flaherty expects the concert to last 75 to 80 minutes.

“I think the students really enjoyed putting the pieces together and I think the audience will enjoy the performance,” Flaherty said.

Freshman music education major Zach Ott said he is excited for the first concert of the year.

“Anyone who’s heard of Monk knows that he’s famous for his quirky, sometimes out-of-place compositions, which allows the soloists to take many liberties, especially in a combo setting,” Ott said.

Ott plays guitar in the jazz band and piano and guitar in the combos.

Senior music major Robb Strieter plays the trombone, which he did not learn until he came to NMU, in the jazz band. He said initially, he did not like the pieces the band is playing before he worked on them.

“I honestly was not a fan of [Monk] until actually getting to play his music,” Strieter said. “There is a song we are playing called ‘Bemsha Swing,’ which is actually a lot of fun to play on the trombone.”

Some pieces to be performed are “‘Round Midnight,” “Well You Needn’t” and “Straight, No Chaser.” There is no cost to attend the concert.