Keene State College’s Jazz Ensemble filled 275 seats in the Redfern Arts Center Main Theatre on Thursday, Dec. 7 for their annual winter concert.
In addition to the performance, a reception was held prior for alumni of the program, and the performance even featured alumni Cora Dykens ‘20 filling in for a member of the ensemble on saxophone.
“The Alumni Advancement Office put together this great reception that happens beforehand and over a hundred people register for that event,” Director Stave Cady said.
The ensemble opened the performance with “Rabble Rouser” by American composer Billy Byers.
Other pieces featured in the first half of the performance included “Lambeau leap” by composer Fred Sturm, “Kid A” by Radiohead, and “Dancin’ Fool” by composer Les Hooper.
Cady mentioned that “Dancin’ Fool” was “a favorite of ours and it’s been done in that band before.”
Following a brief ten-minute intermission, the ensemble performed “Opus One” by composer Sy Oliver.
Additionally, the ensemble performed “Groovin’ Hard” by composer Don Menza, “Cute” by composer Neal Hefti, “New Suit for Zoot” by Hooper, and ended the night with “Amoroso” by composer Benny Carter.
Cady mentioned that Hooper’s “New Suit for Zoot” was a piece that defined the swing era’s revival.
“[Hooper] wrote that in the sing, sing, sing, sort of big band, swing era but it’s a little stylized,” Cady said. “It kind of reckons back to that period in the 90’s and early 2000 when swing became popular again, in like a pop way… we had a lot of fun playing it.”
Cady said that even though the ensemble had a lot of fun learning and playing these pieces, there were some challenging ones this semester.
“Kid A” was a challenging piece for the ensemble and there were “basic fundamental considerations like balancing tempos that was quite difficult,” Cady said.
Additionally, “Groovin’ Hard” required a lot of collaboration from the ensemble to perform.
“‘Groovin’ Hard’ is like an icon and more of I’d say modern, but by that I mean 60’s and 70’s modern big music band,” Cady said. “It’s especially [hard] for the saxophones, they have a blistering solely in that one and super super difficult, even for professional players.”
Cady said that he was proud of how the performance turned out and all the hard work the ensemble has put in throughout the semester.
“I’m so impressed and pleased… I’m very proud of the fact that we can produce that level each semester with all kinds of different musicians,” Cady said. “It was a good vibe in the room, a lot of people just there to have a good time.”
Cady added that he hopes the audience left the performance feeling educated and in good spirits.
“[I hope] that they would like to come back and that they had fun and left feeling more joyful than they were beforehand, “ Cady said. “Perhaps they have a broadened and increased understanding of what big band music is all about.”
Nicole Dumont can be contacted at