Fort Collins High School Jazz Band and CSU jazz ensembles present invitational concert

Mckenzie Moore

On Feb. 22, three jazz ensembles gathered in Griffin Concert Hall for the first jazz performance of the spring 2017 semester. In addition to Colorado State University’s two jazz ensembles, the University Center for the Arts welcomed Fort Collins High School’s jazz band for the performance.

CSU’s Jazz Ensemble II, directed by Wil Swindler, began the night with four jazz arrangements. The first, “Alone Together” by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, arranged by Paul McKee, showcased decorative musical style and stronger harmonization than the original composition, allowing the piece to sound entirely new. The second, “Sidewinder” by Lee Morgan and arranged by Mark Taylor, featured a wide range of soloists with varying instrumentation. The upbeat and syncopated piece followed a steady beat in the drum set. “Send One Your Love” by Stevie Wonder, arranged by Mike Tomaro, presented a slower and more easygoing jazz style with a soft, delicate resolving chord at the end. CSU’s Jazz Ensemble II closed out their performance with “Moten Swing” by Buster and Benny Moten, arranged by Ernie Wilkins, a slightly more muted piece that developed into enormous dynamic contrast that filled the concert hall.

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CSU's Jazz Ensemble II concludes the first part of the concert. Photo credit: Mckenzie Moore

The Fort Collins High School Jazz Band then took the stage for the second part of the concert. Their first piece, “Flight of the Foo Birds” by Neal Hef and arranged by Dave Barduhn, welcomed CSU alumnus David Miles to direct. Muted brass and a lively beat opened their performance and set the standard for the next piece, “Penna Tirana” by George Frideric Handel, arranged by Steve Spiegl. The classical opera with a modern, jazzy twist started slowly, but eventually worked its way up to a huge sound and dramatic timbre, complete with a trombone solo littered with glissando. For the third performance, the band welcomed vocalist Katherine Van Shaar to bring life to “When You Wish Upon a Star” by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, arranged by Jerry Nowak. The song allowed for a smooth, soft transition with a mellow sound. After the slower movement, the Fort Collins High School Jazz Band closed their performance with a frantically fast piece, “Milestones” by Miles Davis, arranged by Dave Barduhn. The syncopated piece showcased rapidly descending arpeggios from almost every musician, a feat requiring practice and skill.

Peter Sommer, the director of the CSU Jazz Ensemble I, walked onto the stage wearing a blue arm sling. He began the third component of the concert by explaining that he had a difficult time choosing his suit for the evening. “Do I wear my blue suit to match my sling, or my gray suit to contrast it?” Wearing his gray suit, the director opened the performance with “Don’t Git Sassy” by Thad Jones, an intense piece with drastic dynamics and screaming notes in the trumpet section. “Just You, Just Me” by Jesse Greer, arranged by Paul McKee, featured trombone soloist Aidan King with a primarily percussive accompaniment. The complex drum set rhythms paved the way for breaks in the main theme to feature the entire ensemble. The third piece, “Waltz Medium” by Mike Holober, featured a heavy bass line and more sustained notes to create a smooth jazz aspect of the concert. Bob Mintzer drew inspiration from a casual dog walk to compose “Who’s Walkin’ Who?” The CSU Jazz Ensemble I performed the piece with a muted sound, with a steady but moderate tempo. To finish out the concert, the Jazz Ensemble I tore through “Hot House” by Tadd Dameron and arranged by Eric Richards, which featured a soprano saxophone solo by Jack Harrington. After multiple drum breaks and an enormous final chord, the Jazz Ensembles Invitational Concert closed, welcoming the audience to greet the musicians in the concert hall afterward.

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CSU's Jazz Ensemble I takes a bow after performing the final component of the night's concert, right after the Fort Collins High School Jazz Band. Photo credit: Mckenzie Moore