Thursday, November 19, 2009

Houston Ross Trio

For my second concert report I attended Miller’s on the Downtown Mall once again. I went on a Saturday night and it was actually a little less packed than the last time I went. On this particular night the Houston Ross Trio was performing jazz selections. The band is comprised of three members (hence the name “trio”): one on guitar, saxophone, and drums. This includes two black males and one white male, ages ranging from late 20s/early 30s to late 40s/early 50s. While listening to the music I could pick up on a variety of concepts discussed in class, such as musical characteristics, gender performance, and race and gender in music. For example, the three instruments produced a polyphonic tone. Each member played their own tune creating layers of sound. Although the instruments were being played simultaneously, each one has its own distinctive sound and it was easily recognized. The saxophone played a soft soothing sound, the guitar was more upbeat, but with a slow to moderate tempo (overall), and the drums gave the song a “bang!” with the clashing of the cymbals. The collaboration of all three instruments produced a rhythmic sensation that everyone could enjoy.

Another thing that I immediately noticed was the way in which the guitar was being played and I automatically thought of gender performance. As we discussed in class, one can perform gender in music in various ways: through dress, instrument used, the way in which the instrument is used, one’s voice, etc. Since the guitarist was a male he reifies the idea that a guitar is a masculine/male instrument. Also, he wore a looser strap while performing which is closer to the sexual organs and exerts masculinity; a sense of power. Although the gender performed was not the opposite of the guitarist gender (i.e. him performing femininity), it still reinforces the idea of “this is how a man is suppose to play a guitar.”

Race and gender in music can also be seen while watching the band’s performance. As discussed in class, music genres are male dominated for the most part. This is clearly visible in the Houston Ross Trio seeing that it is an all male band. In addition, their genre, jazz has not only been attributed to males, but to black males in particular. Black males were the originators of jazz. Since the band is composed of two black males and one white male, it can be assumed that jazz is a black male dominated category. However, I should say, that this particular band upholds certain origins of jazz (instruments included).

As far as the demographics of the audience at Miller’s, I would have to say it was predominantly white, with ages ranging from early 20s to early 50s, and they were casually dressed. A majority of the people were there to enjoy nice music and to socialize with friends. Many people stayed to their selective cliques while others mingled with strangers at the bar. This older white woman even kiss a man or two as she made her way through the bar area, demonstrating a drunken action or a more than friendly gesture. Strangers even danced with one another to selections played by the band. Overall, everyone was having a good time.
I noticed from the beginning that the band had little interaction with the audience. This could possibly be attributed to the fact that they did not have a vocalist. Usually a vocalist can emphasize the instruments used with his or her voice and intrigue the audience; creating a connection with the audience through the song’s theme. However, the band did take requests from the audience which presented some interaction, even if it was very little.

On the other hand, the audience’s interaction to the music performed ascended as the night went on. When I first walked into Miller’s, everyone was mellow and one older woman was the only one “extremely” engaged in the performance by making the statement “I love you!” to the guitarist. However, as the song selection changed people began to dance more and shout “Wheeeeew!” from the crowd. I also noticed that when the band played Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” everyone got excited and began to dance with one another in front of the band. And at the end of each song the audience roared and applauded the band’s efforts.

I actually had an interesting time and would not mind going back to hear the House Ross Trio play once again. I have always been a fan of jazz and I found their music relaying and vibrant (especially when they performed I Heard It Through the Grapevine!).

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