On Monday, 24th October, from 8.00pm at the Kennedy Union Ballroom, I attended a jazz concert which had the University Jazz Band and Dayton Jazz Band as the performers of the evening. The directors of the evening were James Leslie (artist/clinician for Ludwig Drums, Remo Drumheads, Sabian Cymbals and Vic Firths Drumsticks and Mallets) and Willie N. Morris III(Associate Professor of Music University of Dayton Department of Music Faculty) with musical guests artistes Brent Gallaher (saxophone) and Bill Dixon (trumpet). The concert was free courtesy of the Faculty of Music. I had looked up these experts of jazz and was keen to see them perform this fringe genre.
The twenty or so band members (mostly fellow students), were all dressed in black shirts with black trousers and were in three rows. They all faced the audience, except for the lady on the piano who faced the double bass player standing before her. Spirits were high before the start of the show and the band members could be seen chatting away jovially and in some instances having musical discourses with each other. The audience, on the other hand, seemed calm and enthusiastic at the same time, conversing tenderly in low tones as if to probe each other on their musical expectations this evening. We had learnt a lot about texture of music in my classes and I was keen to put my theory to practice by identifying them.
The first piece was an interesting one. The melody started with the alto saxophone which had terraced dynamics with the saxophone player swaying side to side momentarily. This first melodic phrase played by this aerophone was an introduction and it was accompanied by the percussion and in particular the drums. The drummer at the start focuses mostly on the cymbal part of the drum. The trumpet then proceeded to pick the same melody played earlier, and on the second phrase after it starting, it was joined by the trombone and this brass instrument joins in and plays the same melody.
In this first piece, it is noteworthy to acknowledge the use of polyrhythm throughout the whole performance. There was also the simultaneous use of two conflicting rhythms .These rhythms are multiple but at the same time contrasting and are used together at the same time consecutively. This in turn allowed the melody to be syncopated and develop independently every single time a new instrument picked it up. This was mainly due to the fact that different instruments produce different musical timbre, even when playing the same melody.
In terms of its texture, this piece could be said to have been thoroughly homophonic as there was only one melody, which in actual sense did not change. It is also important to note the melody, was at no point harmonized by any of the instruments and by so doing remains dominant throughout the whole performance of the piece.
After a short applause from the audience, the second piece started with a slow Bossa Nova groove type drumming pattern which had eighth-note based with its standard clave pattern. Members of the audience could be seen responding to this groove as some found themselves nodding their heads involuntarily as if being totally controlled it. The drums and the double bass provided accompaniment here.
It is also important to note that there were various rests and percussion breakdowns. The melody was also played in unison and after the second solo, the alto saxophone started the second melody and later joined by the trombone which played a response to the melody which later led to the entry of a trumpet response at the end of this particular phrase. This emotional melody was played by a trumpeter who had his eyes closed the whole time as though to signify how in tune he was with the emotion. This smooth and somewhat unrestricted sound that this melody produced was typical of the feeling that jazz syncopated notes would have on an individual with the occasional off-beat. The eighth notes in this piece were swung in most if not all occasions.
As earlier stated, the polyphonic aspect of this piece, where it consists of various melodies played together at the same time was very evident. This thus means that this piece is of the polyphonic texture and it is clearly demonstrated throughout the pieces phrases where the melody is dominant.
The third and last piece to be analyzed is Shorter Wayne, “One by One” (Art Barkley Album), PAL, 1981, as performed during this musical concert. The highly energetic performance starts with a grandiose introduction by the trumpet which blares out the melody. The alto saxophone then joins with the drums, all playing the same melody as they are accompanied by the double bass. The alto saxophone solo was the most distinct one due to its harmonic embellishment. After the saxophone solo, the trumpet solo started after a short rest and its monophonic texture brightens the whole piece as the notes are properly articulated, right from the low notes to those of the high register.
It is noteworthy to acknowledge the use of improvisation in this genre of music. Jazz music gained its popularity through this spontaneity of creating new and fresh melodies over the ad infinitum repeating series of chords. Improvisation is important in creating expert artistes as it involves creating new melodies over chord progressions from the rhythm section. This allows the musician to be creative with any piece of music and for the sound to be enriched.
In conclusion, this was a very educative experience. The performance bit was the most important one for me as I picked a lot of interesting and important stage performance tips from the ensemble members by simply observing. This experience was important in honing my jazz skills, simply getting a chance to watch and learn literally.