NMU performers refresh jazz staples

Alexandria Watson

The sounds of Charlie Parker, Johnny Mercer and Benny Carter echoed throughout Reynolds Recital Hall last Tuesday, Oct. 13. It was as if each musician was singing, preaching the praises of jazz through their instruments. The audience was captivated throughout the toe-tapping performance.re-jazzconcert_JR

The NMU Jazz Band, TFA Ten and the NMU Jazz Combo put on a stellar performance any music lover would enjoy. Each soloist captured the music’s emotion. Even when there wasn’t a solo, each musician played with an almost tangible energy.

To kick things off, the NMU Jazz Combo played through a noteworthy set featuring legendary pieces such as “Recordame,” written by Joe Henderson, “Skylark” by Johnny Mercer and the jazz staple “Yardbird Suite” by Charlie Parker.

Crisp, cool notes flowed from saxophonist Mina Stumpfold as she swung from piece to piece. Distinct, driven jazz undertones by bassist Nick Zoller kept the combo grooving along with chest-thumping beats from drummer Zach Ott.

Next up was the mighty TFA Ten, giving tribute to major jazz legends in each piece. “All the Things You Are” originally written by Jermone Kern united the 10 players’ melodic energy from the very start.

To speed up the tempo a bit, John Coltrane’s “Impressions” was next on the list. Again, Mina Stumpfoll on the alto saxophone did not disappoint. She hit each note with a live vivacious energy that even John Coltrane himself would appreciate.
Other key soloists throughout the piece included trumpet player Elizabeth Rogers, Kayla Wiltzus on tenor sax and killer trombonist, Robert Taylor.

To round out the set was the fast-paced electric piece “Oleo,” by Sonny Rollins, that left the crowd wanting more.

Comedic transitions by director Mark Flaherty kept audience members engaged, wondering what was to come next. The NMU Jazz band, composed of 17 members, ended the program with four soulful stylings. First was a Benny Carter classic, “Rompin at the Reno,” which brought rhythmic swing to life with the band’s powerful sound.

To change up the pace, “Oblivion” by Astor Piazzolla filled the hall with minor chords that made audience members feel like they were sitting at a café in Barcelona.

The melodic changes, the crescendos and decrescendos showed the true emotional depth in the piece.

Playing an original piece can sometimes be risky for musicians, but in this case NMU nailed it. “Work Song,” originally by Nat Adderley was completely changed and arranged by this power band.

“Each time they play this piece, it’s different,” Flaherty said. “You never know what may happen on stage.”

Killer horn sections boomed the melody, the bassline kept a solid ground and soloists accentuated the piece. Each part of the band worked together, producing a flawless musical styling.

The finale was a Celtic-infused piece called “The Highlands,” arranged by Fred Sturm.

Special guest Barbara Rhyneer on violin led the band through a melodic journey that had a jazz twist. Mixing Celtic music with jazz is a feat rarely heard.

The emotion and dedication shined through the piece until the very end. It was the perfect way to end a truly fantastic show.

The NMU Jazz Combo, TFA Ten and NMU Jazz Band bring music to life. Each member adds color, emotion and rhythm to each note they play. It is a musical journey that should not be missed.

The NMU Jazz Band plays Thursday, Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Reynolds Recital Hall.

You can view the full NMU music department calendar online at http://www.nmu.edu/music/UpcomingEvents.