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Jazzy notes from UConn students and professors

Campus Correspondent

Published: Sunday, February 23, 2014

Updated: Sunday, February 23, 2014 22:02

Jazzy notes from UConn students and professors

Kaitlin Storo

The UConn Jazz Ensemble, led by UConn professors Earl MacDonald and John Mastroianni, gave a Jazz Showcase on Sunday night at von der Mehden Recital Hall.

UConn hosted a Jazz Showcase in the von der Mehden Recital Hall this Sunday, which featured the full UConn Jazz Ensemble as well as three smaller combination groups.

The Ensemble, a full jazz band, was co-directed by UConn professors Earl MacDonald and John Mastroianni and consisted of saxophones, trombones, trumpets and a variety of rhythm instruments–including piano, guitar, bass and drums.

The Ensemble performed four arrangements, each featuring a variety of solo performances. The band was able to showcase each of their talented performers while keeping true to the solo and improvisational style of jazz.

Once the full band had finished its pieces, the performers then broke up into smaller group performance. In comparison to the powerful songs played by the Ensemble, the combo groups were much smoother and retained the coffee shop feel many often associate with jazz music. Each group featured a saxophone, a brass instrument, as well as a variety of rhythm instruments and was laden with numerous solo performances. Both of these combo groups were directed by UConn professor Gregg August. A composer as well as an educator, August is an active member of the New York music scene who incorporates a variety of Spanish influences into his work, which could be distinctly felt in the combo performances.

At the end of the showcase, a change was made to the program, as John Mastroianni, a member of the scheduled faculty duo, was ill. Instead, Earl MacDonald invited the two senior members of the band, saxophone player Colin Walters and bassist Nick Trautmann, to play a piece with him. With MacDonald on the piano, each musician performed flawlessly in synch and had an opportunity to showcase their individual talent.

After finishing the piece, MacDonald announced that they would be performing Thursdays at 7 p.m. in the new Co-op Bookstore located in Storrs Center. Caroline Cacciola, 8th–semester anthropology major said “I really enjoyed the last performance and can’t wait to see them play again in Storrs Center.”

Overall the showcase was tremendously enjoyable, a sentient echoed by the consistent applause throughout the concert and especially after the solo performances. 6th–semester biomedical engineering major Alex Urizar said, “I’ve always been really interested in jazz music and having the opportunity to attend this concert was a great break from my usual science-packed schedule.”

In addition to future performances in the Co-op Bookstore, von der Mehden will be hosting a variety of upcoming concerts, including wind ensembles, a choral concert and a symphonic band, all of which can be found on the recital hall’s Facebook page.


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