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RC Faculty Jazz and Friends in Concert

Photo Courtesy of Google Images
Photo Courtesy of Amanda Wright

By Amanda Wright


Once a semester, the music faculty of Roanoke College performs for the general college audience. This event is free to the public and is normally held on Sunday afternoons in Olin’s Recital Hall. This semester’s concert featured Dr. Joseph Blaha on piano, William Purcell on drums, Brian Holt on bass, Don Wimmer on saxophone, and Patricia Clevenger on vocals.

The program opened with “Straight, No Chaser,” a popular Thelonius Monk tune with lyrics by Sally Swisher in the style of bop with a blues feel. The next piece performed was a Swing tune from 1933 entitled “Sophisticated Lady” composed by Duke Ellington with Irving Mills. As Blaha explained during the performance, not all lyrics were written with the composer, and this can create unintended meanings. In this case, Duke Ellington wrote the piece based on three teachers he grew up with; however, the lyrics, by Mitchell Parish, do not reflect the same sentiment.

The third song was a ballad from 1932 titled “This Song is You” written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. This was the most relaxed and romantic jazz piece of the afternoon. “Hallelujah,” written by Leonard Cohen, followed as a special request from one of the audience members. This song has grown in popularity since 1984 and is one of the most covered pieces in popular music today.

Fifth in the set list was a light samba called “Summer Samba,” which is also known as “So Nice.” The music was composed by a Portuguese musician named Marcus Valle. “Solar” was a non-vocal, hard bop piece that perhaps had the most driving force behind it out of all the pieces performed that afternoon. The tune was composed by Wayne Shorter and Miles Davis. Hard bop is known among jazz musicians for being unusual.

“Someday My Prince Will Come” was the seventh song and is based on a Disney tune. It was composed by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey, and originated in 1937 with the animated movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The performance ended with the popular Broadway tune “I Got Rhythm” written by George and Ira Gershwin. Blaha wrote an extension to the piece called “Promenade” which consisted of a piano solo that resembled a jazz walk.

Just when the audience thought the fun was going to end there, the band performed an encore piece called “All of Me.” It is a jazz standard that can be found in the majority of Fake Books for whichever key instrument you play.

The next Faculty and Friends Concert will be performed in the fall semester of 2015 in Olin Recital Hall on the first Sunday after Fall Break. The concert is only an hour and a half and free to the public.