Purdue's Super Jazz Jam matches spring's volatility in music
Purdue's annual Super Jazz Jam in March faithfully mirrors the nature of spring and spring weather with change around every corner.
“From very early Count Basie to tunes played by the Stan Kenton Orchestra, then on to a Joe Cocker rock ‘n roll classic and very contemporary works by composers like Pat Metheny and almost smooth jazz, this concert features a lot of different kinds of jazz,” says director M.T. “Mo” Trout.
“This is not the kind of concert where you sit out there and think every tune sounds alike. Like the weather, they will change.”
All three of the university's jazz bands – the Concert Jazz Band, Lab Jazz Band and the Purdue Jazz Band – will pull out the stops for the concert set for 8 p.m. Friday, March 31, in Loeb Playhouse of the Purdue Stewart Center . Admission is free; no tickets are needed.
Trout says the March concert becomes the true showcase concert for the three bands because it's the one event that offers the bands extra preparation time. That translates to tackling harder music.
“The students love those challenges and rise to them,” he says. With tunes by Count Basie, Billy Strayhorn, Hank Levy, Ellen Rowe and others on the Concert Jazz Band's play list, this marks “the most challenging music this band has ever played and they're doing a real nice job,” he adds.
Basie's “Every Tub” which dates to the 1930s, is based on classic jazz riffs. Levy's “Pegasus,” originally written for the Stan Kenton Orchestra, “is really pretty with really good melodies,” Trout says. Strayhorn's “Passion Flower” offers an extended solo opportunity to alto sax player Darby Brignac, a freshman from Jasper.
The second group up on the stage, the Lab Jazz Band, features its sax section in Bill Zaccagni's “Bluesin' Gold” and previews the Latin jazz theme of the 2007 Purdue Jazz Festival in Dizzy Gillespie's “A Night in Tunisia ” complete with a mambo feel. Anyone who's ever picked up an instrument will appreciate the challenge the band faces in Hank Levy's “Time for a Change” written in tricky 9/4 time.
The Purdue Jazz Band closes out the evening with its own set of changing moods. One of the biggest surprises will come in a tune Hoosiers are familiar with, “Back Home Again in Indiana .”
“This is a very interesting arrangement by John Clayton that features Ken Yasui (a sophomore from Columbus ) playing drums with brushes all the way through, and the sound of bass clarinets and flutes. This is not your typical ‘Back Home in Indiana ',” Trout says.
Flugelhorns get their turn in the spotlight on Bob Curnow's “Another Life” which features the playing of Goshen sophomore Shara Pearson and Columbus sophomore Spencer Dell.
Oliver Nelson's “Blues and the Abstract Truth” changes the mood again and, at the same time, inserts a bit of jazz history into the concert. “Written in the early 1960s, this is one of the first abstract jazz works and is kind of a granddaddy of contemporary big band pieces based in the blues,” says Trout. “It's a piece our students should be familiar with and it features intricate playing by everyone in the band.”
Making one of her final appearances with the band, jazz vocalist Courtney Rohen, a senior from Grand Rapids , MI , joins the band for three different numbers -“Lush Life” and “The Letter” plus “When I Fall in Love” which concludes the show with yet another surprise. “People think of this as a nice slow tune, but this version is an uptempo barnburner,” Trout says.
The jazz bands final performance of the year will be their annual Jazz on the Hill show at Slayter Center , an outdoor concert from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, April 21.