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MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble celebrates record release

MIT Fall Jazz Festival
MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble.
MIT Concert Jazz Band.
Kresge Auditorium.
November 20.

By Dave Fox
Staff Reporter

The MIT Concert Jazz Band and the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble presented their Fall Jazz Festival in Kresge Auditorium last Friday night. The Concert Jazz Band, directed by Everett Longstreth, opened the show by performing five tunes. Unfortunately, because of my affiliation with this band (as the baritone sax player), I must decline to make any comments on their performance.

The Festival Jazz Ensemble, directed by Jim O'Dell, took the stage for the conclusion of the festival. The Ensemble usually plays tunes specifically composed or arranged for the group, and Friday evening's show was no exception. The ensemble used the occasion of the jazz festival to release their second CD, Go On, copies of which were given away during the show as door prizes.

The group began their portion of the festival with "Leftovers," by Albert Collins. This began with a solo trombone line by Joel Johnson G, which was answered by the rest of the band. The saxes then produced an interesting line, and the tune as a whole developed a smooth blues feel.

In this section, trombonist Brian Tracey G offered a good solo. At the conclusion of Tracey's solo, the group went into a "small band" interlude, with Ron Soltz G covering the bass line on baritone sax. Mark Messier '93 offered a very interesting solo, consisting of tenor sax "colorations" rather than a melody line. This blended quite well with the song's overall tone. Dave Ricks G played a trumpet solo, and Johnson's trombone took the tune to its end.

The second piece was "No Cry," composed by ensemble alumnus Kurt Steltenpohl '92. This had a sort of reggae feel to it, and began with some nice electric guitar soloing by Woody Pak '92, which included some first-rate octave work. The first third or so of the piece was marked by a tense mood, which was later resolved by a climax. Messier then offered a thoughtful tenor sax solo, which was followed by an interlude featuring the brass trumpets and trombones. Doug Abrams '96 played a fine piano solo, and the piece concluded with the saxophones playing against the fluegelhorns.

For a change of pace, the group then played "A Quiet Place," arranged by ensemble alumnus Michael Valdez. This was a quiet ballad, played entirely by the horn players (the only rhythm section involvement was Keith Swartz G on cymbals). The subdued piece contained no solos, although it did showcase some beautiful tone colors.

The band then sped things up, performing "Eastwards," by Toru "Tiger" Okoshi. This began quite dramatically, with the horns laying down some "fat" chords. The rhythm section took things into a slow, funky feel, and Susan Ward G offered a nice soprano sax solo. The rhythm section intensified the tone during Ward's solo, leading up to a fast interlude that dissolved into an interesting groove in 4/4 time that actually sounded like it was in 7/4 time. The sound softened, and the tune concluded with the sax section playing flutes and clarinets to produce a quiet, refined ending.

An interesting version of Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments" was the next piece. This had a sort of samba feel, which was aided by Pak, who placed his guitar on his lap and played it slide-fashion. The smooth melody was rendered well by the trumpet section and contrasted with the rather lively rhythm section. Drummer Keith Swartz was a treat to watch as he kept switching back and forth among three sets of drumsticks to produce precisely the right sound when it was required. Johnson offered a nice trombone solo, and then the brass played some very smooth lines, over which Abrams played an excellent piano solo. The tune then acquired an unusual tone, with the brass section smoothly playing the melody in 4-bar pieces, between which the rhythm section played some wild 4-bar "answering" lines. Johnson offered a trombone solo to conclude the piece.

Before performing the last tune, O'Dell gave away two CDs as door prizes. This was humorous to watch, as Swartz played drum rolls to accompany the drawing, and the sax and trombone sections played some elementary chords to accentuate O'Dell's reading of the winning number.

To conclude the concert, the ensemble offered "Playhouse," composed by ex-ensemble director Jamshied Sharifi. This began with a loud high-hat groove, accented by one-note "hits" by the brass section, and free-form guitar work by Pak. The overall effect was slow, but sounded "fat." Ricks offered a good fluegelhorn solo, which was followed by an interlude featuring the saxes playing against the trumpets and trombones. This led to a baritone sax solo by Soltz. This was an obvious crowd pleaser, due to the low pitch and distinctive sound of the big horn. Ricks came back to the microphone to trade riffs with Soltz, and the piece concluded with this dual solo effort.

As always, the Festival Jazz Ensemble presented a first-rate show, featuring some very talented MIT students. Both MIT jazz bands will present the Spring Jazz Festival in March 1993, which will also feature a third college band from another university, so mark your calendar!