San Diego State’s Jazz Ensemble rocked the Smith Recital Hall on Nov. 8.
The Jazz Ensemble hosted a special guest, jazz composer and pianist, Matt Harris. After graduating from the University of Miami, Harris toured, wrote and recorded with jazz legends Maynard Ferguson and Buddy Rich.
“I came an hour early to spend some time with the ensemble and it was amazing. It was a quick start but it couldn’t have went better,” Harris said. “I love to see how others interpret my music. Some composers would be bothered by that but I welcome interpretation.”
The performance started off by an opening from SDSU’s Jazz Ensemble director Bill Yeager.
He explained the night’s pieces were on a whim, and selected off of a sheet in front of him. The ensemble busted out “Willow Weep for Me” as the first piece of the night.
The ensemble then went into set selection of pieces, and some were arranged and written by Harris himself.
Harris and Yeager alternated when it came to directing the ensemble.
The third piece of the night was titled “Limehouse Blues.”
Harris confirmed that the high notes in this piece were easy to write, but not easy to play.
He made sure to give kudos to the band for performing it so well, specifically Gabe Wolf, who had a very high trumpet solo.
The ensemble performed “Paint It Black,” made famous by Mick Jagger, in the arrangement of Matt Harris. In this piece, Harris played an instrument himself—the melodica, also known as the poor man’s accordion.
Harris said he has been playing the melodica for about three years.
“I wanted to find something for me to
give my touch with instead of always playing the piano,” he said.
“We have these kids who practice, practice and practice for the performances, and I hate to just walk in and take their earned spotlight. I thought the melodica gave me a nice little way to be apart of the performance, but not take the spotlight from deserving students.”
Later in the set, Harris moved to the piano bench to perform during El Gatote that he wrote himself. The piano bench was occupied by Nakul Tiruviluamala during all other performances.
“The SDSU Jazz Ensemble is so good and impressive,” communication freshman Jessica Shipps said.
“The melodica was quite the interesting touch.”
The concert concluded with a fast piece directed by Harris titled “Cherokee.” This piece included solos by Alex Ciavarelli on guitar, Gabe Wolf on trumpet, Chaz Cabrera on alto sax, and Justin Joyce on drums.
Piano performance freshman Bryce Shinohara was attending the ensemble for both a class, and because he loves going to their performances.
He has been to multiple Jazz Ensemble performances this semester so far.
“I know people in the ensemble so I always want to come and support them,” Shinohara said. “I just want to say that Sean Hicke on bass had the most epic solo of the night. He did this thing called scatt singing and looked like he was having an absolute blast up there.”
“The SDSU jazz ensemble is so powerful, how could it not be when it is made up of such fine musicians?” Harris said. “I am so glad to have been a part of this night!”
The Jazz Ensemble performs regularly and their schedule can be found on the SDSU School of Music website.