Jazz Music Review Essay

Submitted By guoyujia
Words: 1085
Pages: 5

On March 23, 2012, UNC Jazz Band performed at the Rehearsal Room of Kenan Music Building for the 25th Annual Videmus Festival. UNC’s Videmus fest aims to change the perception that white males being dominate figures of today’s field of music1. In this way, the festival features the works of women and blacks, who are the underrepresented groups of composers1. The whole concert consisted of three pieces of music by Mary Lou Williams and 5 other pieces of music by Sherisse Rogers. Mary Lou Williams was remembered as the first player to be featured with a symphony orchestra (New York Philharmonic) in the 1940s2. Similarly but 70 years later, Sherisse Rogers is a successful contemporary African-American freelance jazz composer with numerical public recognitions and rewards – her first big band recording received a rare 4.5 star review (out of 5) in Downbeat Magazine3. Sitting on my seat, I was going to identify both composers’ similarities as well as distinguishing each of them.
Since both composers wrote music for big band, as I expected, UNC Jazz Band was built-up by 3 alto saxes (one of them also played baritone sax), 2 tenor saxes, 5 trumpets (one lead and one co-lead), 5 trombones (one lead and one co-lead), and the rhythm session containing piano, guitar, bass, and drum (one of each). The size of the band was similar to Duke Ellington’s band – a typical jazz big band. With the similar structure of Ellington’s band, the sax session sat in the front while the louder front line instruments (the trombone session and then the trumpet session) sitting in the back, and the whole rhythm session located on the left. Basically, brass (trombone), reed (sax), and trumpet played “call and respond”, solos, stop time, or ensemble, while the rhythm session keeping running. We also had Sophie Larkin, a freshman, as the vocalist who appeared in two of the tunes. Presenting the stunning bluesy authority of her voice, I couldn’t imagine that the sound from such a young girl was as powerful and passionate as Billie Holliday – the girl singer from the swing era. Watching and listening the whole band functioning together and backing each other up was just fabulous.
The first tune they played was “Mary’s Idea” by Mary Lou Williams. The tune was initially written for Duke Ellington for his typical big band production. Throughout “Mary’s Idea” we hear a lot of harmony between the brass, reed, and trumpet section. Just as Ellington’s “Mood Indigo”, the trumpets and trombones were mostly muted in this tune to create a light-footed feeling. The music was composed and arranged in the traditional head-solo-head jazz style, which carries a warm relaxing sound throughout4. It was such successful big band swing for the warming-up purpose.
The second tune played was a 32 AABA song form tune named “Blue Skies”5. This tune majorly featured the trumpet, which was played by Cat Anderson when Duke Ellington’s band performed it. No less exciting, UNC jazz band’s trumpet lead Evan Atherton represented the energetic tune really well. In the beginning, all instruments played together to familiarize the audience with the general melody and idea of this tune. Then, sections of solos began blasting though the rehearsal room. Backed up by the rhythm section, Evan started energetically play with swings and bops with a few improvisations. Next, Dalton Harris, the trombone lead, featured his solo with a jolly feeling. When Dalton finished, Cameron Cook, the tenor sax lead, immediately followed him with a bluesy tone. After all of the astonishing solos, the music ended with a blasting terminal sound, which really caught the audience’s attention and evoked their applause.
Unlike Mary Lou Williams’ tunes, the big band swing by Sherisse Rogers was more creative, and we could see the development of jazz from the comparison. First of all, the tempo was changeable in Sherisse Rogers’s music while it was more consistent in Mary Lou Williams’ tunes. For instance, Sherisse