Keene State College’s Jazz Combos demonstrated their improvisation skills at an outdoor concert.
The performance was one of the first to be streamed from an outdoor venue, said professor Steve Cady. Cady, who teaches the Jazz Combos class, said he was pleased to have his students performing in-person together. The outdoor performances have fewer COVID-19 safety guidelines due to being in the open-air. Cady said Jazz, in particular, benefits from musicians being in the same space.
“Music is this unique artform that only happens once. You can record it and play it again, but the time when you do it is the only time that it happens. I think it’s important to feel that and experience that in the moment. Especially in improvisational music, we have to be interacting with one another, that’s how it works,” Cady said.
The Jazz Combos class is offered each semester, taught by Cady. Pedro Paez, a drummer for two of the three combos that performed, has taken the class several times, but has only performed in two recitals due to COVID. Paez mirrored his professor’s desire to perform live, adding that a live audience adds some positive pressure to the performance.
“I like having people react live to what’s happening; it’s something I really enjoy. You see when they like it and when they don’t. When you record on camera, you don’t see a reaction,” Paez said.
Trumpet player Trevor Adams said he appreciates the freedom Jazz performance gives him. “You can just be yourself, you’re the only one who limits what you can do,” Adams said.
In class, Cady encourages students to improvise by pointing to them mid-practice, said Adams. This improvisation allows students to practice matching the style and tune of the piece while still producing a unique section of music, said Adams: “You make your own melody… you try to make it your own.”
The performance had a range of pieces performed, including two written by the recently deceased Jazz musician Chick Corea. Corea’s notoriously difficult “Captain Marvel” closed out the show as the third combo’s last piece. Cady, who saw Corea as a musical inspiration, was “stoked” when his class asked to add the musician’s works to the performance’s repertoire.
“One of my favorite things about Chick, is he’s one of the most diverse artists as a Jazz musician. He’s a prolific composer in almost any style you can imagine,” Cady said.
“[They’re] very challenging, but they’re very fun,” Adams said.
Adams said one of his favorite parts of Jazz is the uniqueness of each performance. As an improvisational genre, no two Jazz performances are exactly alike. Each musician adds their own touch to a piece in a different way each time.
“Even if you perform the same songs for every concert, it’s a different experience every time,” Adams said.
Despite Jazz’s small listener base, Adams encourages everyone to give it a try and discover new music. To this end, he hosts a radio show, The Book on 91.3FM WKNH Keene Saturdays at 1 p.m..
“I think [Jazz] is something worth listening to and investing time in,” Adams said. “It’s such a great artform.”
Jazz Combos is just a taste of the upcoming Jazz Ensemble on May 19, according to Cady.
Listen to The Chirp podcast episode six, featuring student trumpet player Trevor Adams.
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