UVM ensemble to ‘jazz’ Southwick

Thanksgiving may be right around the corner, but there are still opportunities to catch some music before the week off.

The University Jazz Ensemble will be performing their end-of-semester concert in Southwick Recital Hall Nov. 17.

The group, which is made up of both music and non-music majors, plays big band jazz.

The focus of this style is less improvisational and more group interactive, said Alexander Stewart, ensemble director and jazz studies professor, said.

“In a small group, a lot of what you’re doing is waiting for your next solo to come around,” he said. With big band, however, you are always “playing with each other and playing with other sections of the band.”

Thjazzye show will range from the “boisterous and energetic” music of Charles Mingus, to Dizzy Gillespie’s “classic bebop style,” he said.

The musicians will also incorporate some of Duke Ellington’s music. It forces them to balance “the individual part” and the “cohesive whole,” a classic feature of big band, Stewart said.

Stewart compared the method to ice cream.

“You can identify the chocolate pieces and cookie dough and everything,” he said. “They’re still carefully blended together, but not to the point where you can’t see the individual ingredients.”

The best part of big band is that it allows students to practice different musical skills and varieties, Stewart said.

Stewart said one way the ensemble tries to do this is by bringing in guest performers.

Last semester it was Grammy-winning musician Maria Schneider, and this coming spring they plan to have Stefon Harris on vibraphone, he said.

Of course, semesterly student concerts like this one are especially important to the process, he said.

Stewart said that helping the students share their music with others is essential.

“You can play all you want just for yourselves,” he said, “but the whole point of music is to communicate these things to an audience.”

The University Jazz Ensemble concert will be held from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 17 at Southwick Recital Hall. The event is free and open to the public.