Section: Arts

Jazz Ensemble Winter Concert highlights musical diversity

The bright beats of Duke Ellington’s “Launching Pad” rang out as Professor of Music Ted Buehrer opened Friday’s Jazz Ensemble Winter Concert. Featuring all the sections of the band and multiple solo opportunities, this song brought rhythm and soul to every seat in Rosse Hall. 

The next song on the setlist, “Bomb Om Battlefield” from the game Super Mario 64, introduced a theme of musical diversity that would continue throughout the performance. Bueher enthusiastically described its origin as one of the first efforts to insert jazz music into video games. The band succeeded in capturing the bubbly and lively nature of the game.

The mood of the concert took a turn as the brass section began playing the violent assault of “Mars” from Gustav Holst’s The Planets. In an email to the Collegian, Phillip Diamond ’24 wrote, “My favorite song was the jazz adaptation of ‘Mars,’ from Gustav Holst’s The Planets. Sitting in the band and witnessing the sheer power and volume of the song was awesome.” A jazz adaptation of the classical piece was unexpected, yet the passionate performance of the band maintained the angry, battlefield-like quality of Holst’s original piece. An innovative drum solo added a uniquely jazz aspect to the piece. 

Next, the set list took another interesting turn with Buehrer’s own arrangement of “Habanera” from the opera Carmen, which featured the bassoon and clarinet, two instruments recently incorporated into the Jazz Ensemble. The deep repetitive notes of the bassoon gave the piece depth and highlighted the original mesmerizing quality of the song. Buehrer’s arrangement reinvented the famous piece in an engrossing and fun way.

The next song in the program, “Vortex” by Patty Darling, brought the audience back to a traditional jazzy feeling. Jordan Shaevitz ’27 wrote in an email to the Collegian, “My favorite song was probably ‘Vortex’ because it was fast and I got to play a lot of high notes (my favorite thing as a lead trumpet player)!”

Buehrer once again surprised the audience with a unique and unexpected piece: Paul Ferguson’s jazz arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.” This song was the centerpiece of the setlist and beautifully captured Kenyon’s Jazz Ensemble’s wide range of abilities. Diamond, who had three solos in the concert, highlighted “Both Sides Now” as a favorite part of the concert. “Among [my solos], I most enjoyed playing the vocal part for our jazz adaptation of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now,’” he said. “I had to solo for the whole duration of the song, playing the original vocal line while adding some of my own original interpretations to it.”

To close out the show, the band led the audience in an energetic and uplifting version of Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke.” The audience was captivated, clapping along to the familiar and fun song. At the end of the program, everyone in Rosse congratulated the members of the Jazz Band with a standing ovation. 

The quality of the concert made it clear that Kenyon’s Jazz Ensemble has made a lasting impact on its members. Shaevitz, who is new to the ensemble, wrote, “With the Kenyon Jazz Ensemble, I immediately felt welcomed and it’s a great space to meet new people and try out new musical ideas without judgment.” Similarly, Diamond reflected on his three years of jazz at Kenyon: “It’s sad [that] this is the last semester I’ll be able to play jazz. I will most definitely miss it, especially because we have a really strong class of first-years that will continue to shred long after I leave. I hope I can return at some point to witness.”

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