Photo by Mona Mirpour
Warm brown light greeted Trinity’s Jazz Ensemble as four of its members took the stage, their instruments already tuned as they settled into their positions. Senior drummer Dominic Walsh and senior pianist Sam Vincent nodded to each other and the music began. The concert started with “St. Thomas,” a sharp song penned by Sonny Rollins that begins with a samba drum beat and was full of room for the saxophone, played by senior Dillon Akins, to solo and riff in line with the stable rhythm section. (Walsh is the platforms coordinator for the Trinitonian.)
“St. Thomas” set the tone for the night, each song that followed fortified by a stellar rhythm section that was colored by the rotating cast of horns. While there were many highlights throughout the night, from an exceptional solo by junior Tyler Krieger on saxophone to the band’s smart rendition of Trombone Shorty’s “St. James Infirmary,” but the final two songs capped off the night like a smooth Irish coffee.
The final songs were “House of Leaves” and “Off Brand,” both original pieces by Vincent. Before performing them, Vincent spoke to the crowd, elaborating on the inspiration behind the songs.
“I picked the title ‘House of Leaves’ because its the title of a book I was reading at the time. It’s a post-modern book, and that theme influenced the piece,” Vincent said. “‘Off Brand,’ I think came about when I was writing it this summer. I was working, not making too much money, kind of saving up, so I was buying a lot of off-brand things, you know. I was just looking at a little package of Great Value and thinking, ‘Oh, this is an off-brand.’ That’s the name of the song.”
The band’s experience showed through the pieces, with Vincent showing his musical prowess by giving the ivory keys to first-year pianist Michael Gerick and playing the guitar for his final song.
Sophomore bassist Chris Goldman discussed his previous experience with Vincent’s work and how the band performed.
“[The band] played really well, really high energy. I’ve played in a smaller quartet with Sam so I am familiar with his compositions and very grateful he was able to write something we could all play together as a band,” Goldman said.
Dustin Jessop, director of the ensemble, echoed Goldman.
“[The concert] went great,” Jessop said. “Everyone played some of their better times tonight.”
As for the process of developing Vincent’s pieces, it was a semester-long project for the ensemble.
“We had done this sort of this before in previous years so [Vincent] knew I was open to student compositions so he sent me versions of the tunes,” Jessop said. “As we found out the ensemble constraints and knowing we would have to go combo because we didn’t have a lot of trombones this year, he developed them and kind of rewrote them for the smaller group. And they’ve evolved since the beginning. We started from our very first rehearsal with these pieces, taking notes and dissecting them.”
The concert ran for roughly an hour and a half and the auditorium was at about half capacity, the seats filled with friends and family who congratulated their respective musicians once the concert was over.
“It’s really hard not to tap your toe to [jazz] and in a live performance,” Jessop said. “An outsider may not know whats going on, but when you watch the musicians talk and breath together and they are creating on the spot together … [Jazz] is an incredibly evolving, real deep art. It’s sad it doesn’t get the credit it deserves. We couldn’t have pop or rock or hip hop or country without jazz.”
Without jazz who knows what music would be. The jazz ensemble has one more concert this year, Trinity’s Christmas concert, on Dec. 6.