Every year students and community members clamor for the limited supply of tickets to the Conference on World Affairs’ popular jazz concert, where they are able to take a break from panel discussions for a night of music.
Tuesday night proved to be no different, as nine renowned artists took the stage and played to a sold-out crowd at Macky Auditorium.
After a short introduction from Todd Gleeson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the musicians took the stage one-by-one. The audience grew antsy as each artist entered from the wings to take his or her individual place on stage.
With a short number that highlighted each of the artists’ solo abilities, the program continued with an array of personal compositions by a few of the players.
The first piece, entitled “Sonic Tonic,” was introduced by composer and saxophonist Ron Blake. Blake, well-known as a member of the Saturday Night Live band, explained that the song is about the fact that sounds, especially without lyrics, have universal healing elements.
The song itself, tinged with the Caribbean flair of Blake’s heritage, brought a light-hearted air to the auditorium that had audience members tapping their feet and fidgeting in their seats as they resisted the urge to dance. With a strong saxophone solo, accompanied by the effortless blending of different instruments, Blake’s piece set the tone for the rest of the show.
After a witty joke about jazz musicians and frogs, Adrean Farrugia, an award-winning pianist from Canada, introduced his own piece, “Morning Star.”
“Morning Star” proved to be the complete opposite of Blake’s island-style composition. Farrugia wove together the ensemble in a more melodic manner that left the audience subdued and in awe of the artist’s flexibility.
While Farrugia left the audience in a dream-like state, it was Derek Nash, an established saxophonist out of the U.K., who got the entire audience dancing in their seats.
With his Spanish-infused piece, “Seville,” Nash brought the Spanish streets to life on stage. From conquistadors to flamenco dancers, Nash thoroughly entertained the audience with his own energy as he danced across the stage playing until his face turned red.
After a brief introduction, the band brought Las Vegas singing sensation Jo Belle Yonely on stage to add her jazz-infused voice to the mix.
From Duke Ellington’s “Ain’t Got Nothin but the Blues,” to Carmen McRae’s “I’m Always Drunk in San Francisco,” Yonely showcased her deep and soulful voice against the ensemble backdrop.
Steering away from the classic jazz format, the band welcomed up-and-coming guitarist Gooding to the stage. With help from percussionist Rony Barrak, Gooding showed his musical prowess as he built melodies across two guitars, which he played at the same time toward the end of his instrumental set.
Gooding, an artist who said he didn’t see himself as a “jazz musician,” impressed the crowd as his final song brought the entire audience to its feet for the first standing ovation of the evening.
The audience, still in awe of the newcomer’s evident talent, grew antsy again as the ensemble returned to the stage for their final set.
As his ninth year as the conference percussionist, Barrak, a Beirut native, professed his love for Boulder before introducing his own piece, “Beiruting Around.”
With a melancholy introduction by trumpet player Brad Goode, the piece started to subdue a few exhausted audience members. However, their imminent slumber was interrupted as Barrak picked up the pace and carried the ensemble through a diverse blend of bass-heavy melodies and energetic percussion solos.
Barrak’s complex style and versatility embodied the ensemble and highlighted the evident connection between the players, as they executed a near-flawless performance filled with diverse influence and experiences.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Maranda Bodas at Maranda.email@example.com.
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