The Cal Poly jazz ensemble reinvigorated old jazz music with improvisation and new sound at their concert in Harman Hall at the Performing Arts Center Saturday night.
The two-hour concert had both entertainment and humor from forgotten music.
Paul Rinzler, director of “Just Jazz,” said the concert was a fresh approach to jazz. Rinzler is also the director of the jazz studies department.
“The concert has been this generation’s look at America’s greatest musical form,” Rinzler said. “A combination of the new generation’s look and the previous generations, and what they already accomplished.”
The concert was split into four ensembles, all parts playing some form of jazz to entertain the 400 people in the audience.
“If someone’s clapping, it means they appreciate you, and that is never a bad thing,” he said. “I could tell from the beginning of the night when (the audience) clapped that they were getting into the music.”
The first ensemble performed four songs that ranged from a “Haitian Fight Song” to a different play on the classic “Bye Bye Blackbird.” The band had accompaniment from agriculture business senior Josh Little, who sang Frank Sinatra’s part in “The Best is Yet to Come.” The rest of the 17 members in the band tapped their feet to the beat.
Next, the Friday Combo came on the stage consisting of five males. Aerospace engineering senior Bill Sorenson introduced each song and informed the audience he was stalling while civil engineering senior Bret Bailey found his music. After a little while, he gave up on locating the music while Sorenson told the crowd, “What the hell, we’re going to try it.” That performance went on without any noticeable hitches as Bailey read Sorenson’s music.
When the Friday Combo came to their last song, “Not Yet,” the audience was informed that it was composed by the pianist, music senior Steve Carlton. Rinzler had asked Carlton if the piece was done yet, to which he replied, “Not yet.” Carlton said that the performance was great, even though he admitted he couldn’t hear the band most of the time.
The concert picked up again with Wednesday Combo after a 15-minute intermission. Carlton said the names Wednesday and Friday are given merely because those are the days when the bands meet. Wednesday and Friday both had five male members, but this time instead of a trumpet there was a guitar.
After three songs, the Wednesday combo exited the stage as the fourth ensemble came on. The group began to sit down when one of the saxophone players, electrical engineering senior Chris Nguyen quickly left his seat to run backstage. After all 16 performers sat down, Nguyen came running out only to drop his sheet music all over the stage. Giving a bow, he grabbed his music and sat down in his seat while the audience clapped. Rinzler noticed Nguyen was gone from his seat and said later that although it was not the best thing to forget music, it turned out fine.
“I was proud that he then turned it into something funny when he took that bow,” Rinzler said. “That’s what happens when you improvise. If you make a mistake, you have to make something out of it somehow. He’s got that improvisatory spirit in him.”
Nguyen went on to have a solo battle with the other tenor saxophone, Sorenson, showing both of their improvisational skills.
The concert ended with a quick song called “Rompe Cabezas,” an upbeat arrangement by Matt Harris. Concert-goers and parents of the accompanying singer Rachel Malinowski, Carol and Mark Malinowski said that their favorite number was “Rompe Cabezas,” because it was different.
“It made me want to dance. I loved it,” Carol Malinowski said.
One of the house managers for the Performing Arts Center, Nan Hamilton, said that she was surprised that more people didn’t come, since the bands are so talented.
“They have the best energy. The town doesn’t know what they are missing in these concerts,” she said. “It amazes me that there are this many people that are not music majors that can play this quality of music.”