Monday, November 16, 2009

Jazz Chamber

This Sunday, The Forum at O’Hill was filled with the smooth sounds of the UVA Jazz Chamber. The performance consisted of four different groups ranging from beginner – intermediate to advanced. The students in the ensembles belonged to the McIntire School of Music at UVA. They were coached by UVA faculty members who enjoy playing jazz music in their spare time. The first group to perform was appropriately named The Friday 12:30 combo after their rehearsal time. This group was good but they were clearly the less advanced Jazz ensemble.
The vocalist for the first group was a first year girl named Jenny Burke. When I began to think about how I was going to describe the female vocalist for the Friday 12:30 combo I had to stop myself. I was about to describe her like “Rolling Stone” magazine would. I found myself looking at her clothing and her hairstyle first and then her music. So, I took a step back and focused on her actual performance .She had a nice voice but it was often over powered by the band. It seemed like she was a little nervous because she didn’t have a very strong stage performance. When she held the microphone she clenched it very tightly with her hands and kept it contained in the microphone stand. The only interaction she really had with the crowd was through her eyes. This was good in some aspects because it made the performance seem more intimate. It was also bad because she came off kind of stiff at many moments in her performance. Although, the vocal performance could have been better the band was excellent. Many of the songs they played had a strong blue’s influence. The guitarists played with a lot of distortion like some of the electric blues players we have studied. It was hard to tell but I think some of the songs featured the 12 bar blues as well. If it was not the 12 bar blues it was definitely a technique that jazz musicians derived from the 12 bar blues because many of the songs seemed like the beat looped in a continuous pattern. The songs always seemed to end how they started.
The next group to perform opened up with a bang. They preformed one of my personal favorites “Pure Imagination” featured in Willy Wonka the movie. The main difference between the two jazz ensembles’ was the confidence of the lead singer. The first thing she did was rip the microphone out of its stand and take command of the stage. She also made “cheesy” gestures at the audience and made facial expressions to match the mood of the songs. It was interesting to watch the dynamic between the lead vocalists and the guitar and bass players. I noticed they played their guitars upright and kind of nerdy. It was like you could tell they weren’t very sexual people by the way the played their instruments. Whereas, the vocalist’s really took command of the stage. Even though the jazz groups were not rock bands it seemed like they played by the same old rules. Meaning, if a girl is the leader of the band the band is not going to be “real” rockers. They’re not going to be really aggressive because they are commercialized and unserious. The other part of the group that was interesting was the guy playing keyboards. In most groups if there is a female in the band she is either on lead vocals or keyboards. Even though the keyboardist was a guy he was definitely the most put together out of every male in the group. He also seemed very confident on the keyboards. For Instance, instead of the drummer counting the group in and laying the foundation for the rhythm on the songs he did.
Overall, the Jazz chamber at the O’Hill Forum was very good. I have never really listened to a jazz performance before so I didn’t know what to expect but I really enjoyed it. I recommend anyone who has ever had an interest in Jazz music.

By: Asia Johnson

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