Jazz performance features new take on the classics


Nichelle Heu

The CRC Jazz Ensemble performed in the Recital Hall on Sept. 24. The performance encompasses the roots of American jazz.

Students, faculty and community members gathered in the Recital Hall to hear the music department’s interpretation of Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Aretha Franklin and Charlie Parker’s jazz hits on Sept. 24.

“This is the neighborhood’s orchestra, CRC’s orchestra, the community’s orchestra. But really, it’s your orchestra,” said Steve Homan, jazz professor and band director.

Living up to every word and syllable, the professor gave the audience a sense of belonging and involvement by incorporating jazz trivia to preface his band’s performance. Then, later shimmied on stage while motivating everyone to clap along to each song throughout the concert.

Along with this exciting feature was Homan’s process for choosing that evening’s setlist , which considered how each song’s rhythm and tempo could be presented in a way that provided the audience with an intimate experience.

“We’re a bunch of musical chefs,” Homan said. “We like to present the audience with new cuisines, because you can’t eat french-fries everyday — you’ll get sick.”

This is a strong ideology that he likes to implement in his artistic process, because it provides the audience with a variety of sounds that blow them away.

“We did Seal’s version of ‘Walk on By’ as a funk tune, tried out two new vocalists for our Beguine and B.B. King’s ‘Everyday I Have the Blues’ pieces and introduced a new baritone saxophone player for Count Basie’s ‘88 Basie Street’,” said vocalist Yemanya Napue.

For all of you who don’t know, these aforementioned songs were originally jazz and Blues singles; two of which do not have female vocalists and are extremely hard to adapt into a Funk piece.

“I am trying to utilize what little voice I have left,” said Jazz Vocalist Marie Bland. “And since this is my first time singing blues and jazz songs [in concert], I was giving the usual Funk growl that I am used to.”

Although  this concert was was placed in a large, bright and cold auditorium, both of the new singers had voices that would transport you back to those good ol’ jazz clubs where you would bask in a lively ambiance.

“Setting the bar high,” said 37-year-old guitarist Nikki Jones. “And we only had two three-hour sessions to prepare for this concert.”

If this is what two practices brings to the community, then CRC is tuning up for a semester full of excitement.

“This concert helped me understand Jazz’s rich history and got me more interested in it too,” said 15-year-old attendee Jamal Warner. “Which I think their goal was.”

It is hard to veer children toward different music genres, but this is a moving testament to what the conductor was trying to accomplish: the promotion of jazz.

“I try to treat them like my extended family in the living-room, so I try to accommodate the audience in that regard,” Homan said.