On Tuesday, Jan. 21, people crowded into Peirce Pub to hear the Kenyon Jazz Faculty Combo perform Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’ 1958 album, Moanin’. The ensemble featured members of Kenyon’s music department: Ted Buehrer ’91 on trumpet, Cary Dachtyl on drums, Tom Davis on guitar, Ross Feller on tenor saxophone, Caleb Hustlar on piano and Matt Paetsch on bass.
To start off the concert, Buehrer spoke about how in the age of streaming music, albums are becoming less and less important, with people often finding their one or two favorite songs rather than listening to the full album from beginning to end. Albums allow musicians to create a unified theme across a body of work and deepen the meaning of the end product. Moanin’ came out during a crossroads in jazz history as musicians found themselves having to choose whether to continue using the traditional jazz style or explore a more progressive sound that emerged during the 1950s and early 1960s to compete with modern genres like rock.
The Faculty Combo managed to convey all of this into their performance as they balanced the more traditional “Side A” with the nonconformist “Side B,” which explored new ways to create and pass themes around in jazz music. Throughout the performance, each player starred in improvisational solos. Notably, Dachtyl impressed on the drums in the opening song of Side B, “The Drum Thunder Suite,” with three movements all connected by the constant, almost militaristic, drum beat.
The melody often passed between Buehrer on trumpet and Feller on saxophone, but they made sure to give the guitar, bass and piano parts opportunities to display amazing musical moments during their solos.
The talent and experience of the combo members was best demonstrated in how they interacted with one another, showcasing their familiarity with each other’s styles and evenly balancing the different instruments brilliantly throughout the different songs. There was a feeling of unity and equality between all the different players even though some instruments primarily had the melody, all performers were valued equally.
This could be seen when Buehrer and Feller would often step off the stage during the other solos so that the audience could better see them as they played.
The audience fed off of the good-natured interactions between the players, creating a heightened community in the Pub as the ensemble connected with the listeners. This was seen as each soloist received boisterous rounds of applause at the end of their features and at the end of the album, the combo received a standing ovation.
The Jazz Combo did a fantastic job performing the quintessential jazz album, Moanin’, and through the performance they reminded the audience how important it is to just sit down and listen to an album from beginning to end with no interruptions.