All That Jazz

Jacob Goodman

On the second night of the Jazz Combo concert, six student bands played a variety of musical genres, ranging from John Coltrane to Radiohead to Carlos Santana to several original pieces composed by members of the Advanced Jazz Combo and Jazz Explorers.

The concert was directed by Shawn Costantino and spanned two nights, with nine combos playing 38 songs.

“Basically what we work on is the melody and the chords, and then everything else is working on bringing everything together to make a really great, cohesive musical experience,” said Cory Batchler ’13, the bassist for the Advanced Jazz Combo.

The Jazz Explorers were last to perform Saturday, playing five songs that included original pieces composed by drummer Daniel Sunshine ’13 and trombonist Nick Lee ’15.

“I just started composing this year; it’s very, very, very hard,” said Sunshine, drummer for the Jazz explorers. “It really just takes a lot of waiting and messing around on the piano for lots and lots of hours until you come up with something.”

“I usually get an inspiration from listening to another piece,” said Nick Lee, the trombonist for the Jazz Explorers. “Writing the chords to tune first, then the melody is easiest for me because I find it easier to form a melody based off chords, than chords based off melody. There is a lot that I have to think about in terms of structure of the chords and what patterns I use because that all affects the feeling of the piece. The melody, for me, is one of the hardest parts because maintaining the guide tones of the specific chord and giving the melody a shape. It takes a lot of practice to get a good sense of what you really want to hear in an original composition.”

In preparation, the players meet four times a week: twice in a big band setting and twice in their individual combos.

The combos change from year to year.  Sunshine has been on the Jazz Explorers for two years, but says there’s a difference between last year’s group and this years’.

“The groups are completely different, just the dynamic of the groups,” Sunshine said.
“Our strengths and weaknesses last year are almost the opposite of our strengths and weaknesses this year. It was hard to find out what our sound was going to be but I think we finally found it with this show. At first we were playing a lot of more classic stuff, more straight ahead jazz, but this show we sort of took it out of the box a little. Last year we played really modern stuff right from the start and we didn’t play that much straight ahead Jazz.  The players that we have [this year] — Andy Arditi [’14], Nick Lee [’15]—they’re both very, very good at playing straight ahead stuff.”

The Jazz Explorers, Advanced Jazz Combo, and two other combos will perform again this month at the Catalina Bar and Grill Jazz Club on March 19.