As part of the 2011 Bill Evans Jazz Festival, the Southeastern Alumni Jazz Ensemble, directed by Dr. Richard Schwartz, director of jazz studies, gave a live performance on Monday, April 11, at 7:30 p.m. in the Pottle Music Building Auditorium. The ensemble was filled out by a handful of Southeastern music students in order to give the group the proper instrumentation: four trumpets, four trombones, five saxophones and a rhythm section consisting of piano, bass, drums and guitar.
The concert started with the Thelonious Monk tune, “Straight No Chaser,” featuring soloist Vasil Cvetkov on piano.
Caravan, the second chart, was composed by Juan Tizol in 1937 and made popular by Duke Ellington and his orchestra. The drums initiated the chart with a few bars of rumbling tom-toms before a decrescendo into a more mellow section. Then, Dominick Messina, on lead trumpet, played the main melody over the group’s soft tones. The song also featured alumni tenor saxophonist John Lyons, soloing over a halftime jazz feel before being joined by alto saxophonist and music performance senior, Vitalie Gumeniuc and alumni baritone saxophonist, Sean Kenny. Caravan made its way through a vast number of contrasting musical styles before the songs’ finale.
Playing cymbal swells with yarn mallets, drummer Randy Carpenter helped to set the lyrical mood of “For No One In Particular.” With the slow tempo established, Lyons stepped up to the microphone for his lengthy solo. The entire ensemble backed him with brief interjections of unison figures that helped intensify the ambiance.
The next chart, “Greazy Rider,” saw Lyons and Kenny trading fours during the solo section. Trading fours is a soloing technique where one musician solos for four measures before the solo is traded to another musician for four measures.
Alumni trombonist Darryl Jacob arranged the next two songs, “Peri’s Scope” and “Gospel John.” On the latter, Carpenter linked the syncopated hits from the band with multiple drum breaks that kept the brisk tempo moving along.
Pulling the reins on the pace of the concert, the group then played the ballad, “Li’l Darlin’,” composed by Neal Hefti in 1958.
“My favorite tune was ‘Li’l Darlin’,” said music performance junior, Bryan Reed. “I’ve been playing that song since my freshman year in high school and it never gets old. It’s so smooth.”
The concert closed with the up-tempo, Latin flavored “Mambo Hot,” by Victor Lopez. Written in 2000, this was the most contemporary song on the program.
The concert was well received by the audience and enjoyed by the performing musicians.
“It was just a lot of fun to see some old friends and teachers,” said alumni drummer, Shawn Manguno, who shared the drum throne with Carpenter.
“We’re always glad to come back and play, especially for the Bill Evans festival,” said Bob Priez, former Southeastern faculty and trombonist. “There’s not too many chances to play with a band this size in the commercial world.”
Miles Lyons, junior at Ponchatoula High School, was present to support his father, John Lyons, and his brother, Jonathon Lyons.
“My dad pushes Jonathon a lot to play with a big group and solo,” said Miles. “It’s pretty interesting to watch them play together.”