Jazz is the type of music that is experienced rather than heard. It buzzes deep in the chest of any observer and vibrates through the floor, compelling listeners’ feet to tap along.
The Geneseo Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combos performed in Wadsworth Auditorium on Tuesday Dec. 5. The groups collectively played 11 pieces and by the end of the performance the audience was buzzing with the energy of the musicians.
The Jazz Ensemble itself performed seven lively songs. Some were older and considered classics, like “Our Love is Here to Stay,” by George Gershwin. Others were more modern, such as “Tell Me a Bedtime Story” by Herbie Hancock—a piece styled to sound like ‘60s jazz, though it was composed in more recent times.
Between the full ensemble pieces were performances from two different Jazz Combo groups. The 9:00 Jazz Combo and 6:30 Jazz Combo were comprised of a handful of students from the main ensemble who came together and chose their own pieces to perform.
The independence of the combo groups was clear. Before playing, the group counted off to begin the song. Just as the director of the whole ensemble kept members in time with one another, the individuals in the combos kept one another in check and in rhythm.
Director of the Jazz Ensemble Bill Tiberio described these groups endearingly.
“The combos form on their own and pick their own jazz chamber music,” he said. “There is no director overseeing the combos … I want the musicians to be independent so they can play on their own someday.”
One piece played by the Jazz Ensemble, “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” by Frederick Loewe, featured a vocalist on top of the instruments. Sociology major senior Jennifer Bender filled this role with grace, as her ringing voice mingled and harmonized with the buzz of brass.
Undeclared freshman pianist Brian Vargas also earned special praise from the director after playing the accompaniment for every song of the night. When not included in the number, most musicians in the full ensemble were able to observe and support their peers as they performed in the small combo groups.
In every song that the ensembles played, a few designated soloists would stand and play some improvised lines of notes before passing the focus back to the main group. These soloists played at a quieter volume for a while, which made the music more enticing.
Listeners leaned in to hear the complexity of each solo, and then suddenly the other twenty-plus musicians began to play at a louder and more excited volume than before. It wasn’t hard to feel the excitement radiating off the stage.
“I am so proud of all of these musicians,” Tiberio said in his closing remarks. “Geneseo has had a reputation across the state for many years for its music department, and we are really proud to be a part of that.”
Penny Michalak, attending the concert in support of her son Ben, was amazed by all of the musicians. “I expected the music to be good, but I was blown away,” she said. “I was so impressed by the level of talent in this show.”
More music is coming in the spring and the music department implores students to join in the excitement of these concerts.u