One last time Senior jazz musicians cherish their final show

To close out their last concert on May 11, the nine seniors in the Monday Jazz Ensemble revisited “Moanin’,” a Charles Mingus piece they had performed  together years ago as freshmen. 

“It was one of the very first songs we played,” Josh Kim ’18 said. “Playing it again just gave us the feels. Here we are, back at it as a group, playing this piece that brought us together, and now we’re going to end on it.”

The senior group also performed Jimmy McGriff’s “Doin’ My Thing,” Clarence Wheeler and the Enforcers’ “Doin’ What I Wanna,” and Sun Ra’s “Plutonium Nights,” which featured Josh on baritone saxophone and Charlie Whitney ’18 on tenor saxophone with back-to-back solos.

US Math Department Head Chip Rollinson, who attended the concert, said he enjoyed the seniors’ performance and appreciated how well the instrumentalists complemented each other.

“They’ve played together for so long, and that was evident,” he said. “It was fun to see Charlie and Josh play off each other and get energy from their friends in the audience. They were really enjoying themselves.”

After the performance, tenor saxophonist Lily Denton ’18 reflected on the seniors’ four-year experience in the band. 

“[Jazz Director Pandelis] Karayorgis always pushed us to try new things, whether it was switching up our approaches to soloing or just getting us to solo in general,” she said, adding that the band also gave her access to a different community in the school. “I’ll really miss our evening sessions and meeting and playing with classmates that aren’t in my immediate friend group. I’ve met a lot of people from the jazz band that I don’t think I would’ve known as well if it hadn’t been for our weekly sessions.”

Mr. Karayorgis also expressed his feelings about parting ways with this year’s seniors.

“It’s always a bittersweet moment saying goodbye to the seniors, especially to those whom I’ve worked with in middle school as well,” he said. 

The concert began at 7 p.m. with a performance by the Ninth Grade Jazz Ensemble, who played pieces from Herbie Hancock, Gigi Gryce, Lee Morgan, Roy Hargrove, McGriff, and Mingus, all mainstream jazz artists. Following the freshmen, the Tuesday Jazz Ensemble, comprised of seven juniors and four sophomores, performed “Bit of Heaven” by Curtis Fuller, “Señor Blues” by Horace Silver, “The Blues Walk” by Clifford Brown, and “Equinox” by John Coltrane. 

Malcolm Barclay ’20, a guitarist in the Tuesday group, said he thought this was its best performance to date. 

“Equinox had the best chord progression, and everyone enjoyed it,” he said. “We chose it to be our last song because it had the most of what we liked to do as a group.”

All of the evening’s music was recorded live on a new system bought with a $30,000 grant gifted to the music program by an anonymous donor. Most of the money has gone to supplying an upgraded sound system, digital recorders, guitar amps, condenser microphones, microphone stands, cables, a drum set, a key board, and the tenor and baritone saxophones that Charlie and Josh played during the concert. 

Mr. Karayorgis said he was eager to upgrade the previously used stereo mic to the new recording system and could easily detect the higher quality of the recording, which featured a better balance of sound among the different instruments.

“There’s much more detail to the sound because of the proximity of the mics to the instruments and because the multi-track recording can be mixed after the concert,” he said.

Gabe Levis ’19, who played the saxophone in the Tuesday Jazz Ensemble along with his brother Jonah Levis’ 21, said he enjoyed performing for the crowd. 

“My favorite part of performing is just when the people watching are enjoying and having fun because jazz is about entertainment—entertaining both yourself and others.”

He added that he would promote one of the jazz ensembles to anyone, regardless of their experience with an instrument.

“I would 100 percent recommend anyone to try it. For me, it’s a way to destress after a long day of school.”

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