5,114 feet above sea level, the tiny, car-free Alpine
town of Saas-Fee, Switzerland, presented the Purdue
Jazz Band with a natural high during the first stop
of its European Tour 2000 in July.
But it proved to be just the first in a number
of head-spinning highs on the 11-day tour that concluded
in Europe’s lowest county in a steamy, jam-packed
Amsterdam jazz club built on land reclaimed from
Stuffing chocolates into their travel bags in Switzerland,
adding hand-crafted beer steins in Germany, and
clogs and cheese in the Netherlands, the 18-member
band directed by M.T. "Mo" Trout created
musical memories that will last longer than any
of their purchased souvenirs.
Winning the big band competition at the Third Annual
International Alpine Music Festival in Saas-Fee,
and receiving compliments at every stop on their
tour, band members felt the highlight of their adventure
came in the chance to play in the same venues as
the world’s top jazz musicians at the prestigious
Montreux International Jazz Festival.
On a rainy afternoon at Montreux, Purdue literally
brought out the sun over Lake Geneva as it pulled
out all the stops in an outdoor concert. Guest soloist,
Chicago saxophonist Mark Colby aided the effort
with a surprise improvisation on "Blue Skies."
"Even though it was raining we had a real
good crowd, and we just had a really good time.
A number of times I had to remind myself I was playing
at Montreux. It was a dream come true," says
baritone sax player Al Reuther.
"Playing Montreux is huge," adds drummer
Roger Hoover, a senior majoring in chemical engineering.
"It’s humbling and inspiring at the same time."
Beyond performing, band members seized the numerous
opportunities presented by the Montreux Festival
to enjoy different styles of jazz. Hoover reveled
in the chance to immerse himself in one of his favorites
- Latin jazz. "The Cuban Night just blew me
away. We danced all night. It was fun," he
Sightseeing was sandwiched around performances
at the two music festivals in Switzerland, and jazz
club gigs in Mannheim, Germany, and Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Special moments came as the group explored a funky
museum carved out of an Alpine glacier, wandered
the narrow, windy streets of German towns like Heidelberg
and St. Goar that oozed with Old World charm, and
watched the carving of wooden shoes in the Netherlands.
"There were incredibly breath taking sights,"
says trumpeter Kelly Keesler. "Over there,
you drive two hours and the culture completely changes,
along with the language and customs. That was the
highlight for me."
For Reuther, who obtained his PhD in electrical
and computer engineering this summer, the trip provided
the perfect exclamation point to a successful college
career. Setting what might be a record, Reuther
played in AAMB, Boiler Brass, Symphony Orchestra,
Concert Band and Jazz Band while obtaining three
Purdue degrees over 11 years.