Jazz orchestra rises and shines

By Staff Writer Samantha Wahl.

There are some things that just aren’t the same on tape as they are when performed live, and one of them is jazz. To hear the swells and lulls of a band through a CD or an MP3 is one thing. But live jazz carries a nearly empathic quality; sitting in a room with instrumentalists creates a uniquely vivid emotional experience. It’s almost possible to feel the emotion, the humanity emanating from pieces as they are played live. 

Such was the case at the UMass Dartmouth Jazz Orchestra’s Fall Concert. The event took place on November 20 at 7:30 PM, in CVPA 153. The small, curved room lent the event a more intimate feel, even considering the nearly-full house sitting in the audience and the large number of musicians sitting onstage. 

Under the direction of Professor Tobias Monte, the Jazz Orchestra opened the night with a rendition of “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be”. To perform the piece, which has been played by such greats as Duke Ellington, Ted Persons, and Mercer Ellington in the past, the group utilized an arrangement by Gordon Goodwin. The easy-but-energetic feel of the composition set a tone for the evening as the crowd settled in for the night ahead. 

Student Jocelyn Couto took to the stage to perform “Orange Colored Sky”. The song, arguably best known for Nat King Cole’s rendition, is characterized by an upbeat tone with quick, lighthearted lyrics. “The ceiling fell in and the bottom fell out/ I went into a spin and I started to shout:/ ‘This is it! I’ve been hit!/ This is it, I-T, it!”, goes the chorus. Couto stayed true to the bouncing tone of the piece, and between her vocals and capable instrumental backing by the Jazz Orchestra, the song became a real earworm of the night. Couto later returns to the stage for a performance of the Billie Holiday standard “Stormy Weather”. 

Soloists for the night included both faculty and students from UMass Dartmouth, including Brian Niro on trumpet during Will Shaefer’s composition “Shadings”, Scott Whiting on the bassoon during “I Ain’t Gonna Ask No More”, and Couto on vocals. Also featured was the Creative Jazz Ensemble, a smaller group within the Orchestra which performed a more experimental piece entitled “Rise and Shine”. 

Something of note is that Professor Tobias Monte, the group’s director, is not always at the front of the group conducting. At points he jumps in as both a trumpeter and a trombonist, with other members of the group helping to conduct the group in his stead. It’s a charming display of unity; the Orchestra, it seems, is not simply a professor-student hierarchy. It is a team that works together to make music happen. 

It’s interesting to note that the Orchestra is, in fact, a class as well as a team. When asked about the structure of the program, Professor Monte explains that the Jazz Orchestra is a music course on-campus. The Jazz Orchestra is but one ensemble within the music department at UMassD. Other ensembles include the Wind Ensemble (which is also directed by Monte), the Percussion Ensemble, and multiple choruses. The ensembles can be joined by any UMass Dartmouth student, or even by outside community members. “If anyone’s interested, all they have to do is call the Music Department.”, Monte says with a smile. “Anyone can play or sing.” 

And so concludes the evening’s festivities. As the crowd disperses, there is an air of joy and accomplishment. It’s clear the work these students have put into the night’s music, and if the crowd’s reaction is any indication, it was all very much worthwhile. 

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