Student musicians improvise with popular jazz melodies

This Saturday in the Given, the Colby Jazz Band performed to a full house under the direction of Eric Thomas. The program handed out to the audience had an interesting front cover that said, “Outsourcing: It’s not Plagiarism, It’s a Compliment!”

For maybe the first time at Colby, copying someone else’s work is not academic dishonesty, but instead a common practice used by jazz musicians. Using a well-known melody over a new chord progression is typical, and Colby Jazz Band used it well during their performance. It was refreshing to see a performance where the majority of players improvised and had their moment in the spotlight. Being a former jazz guitarist myself, it was great to see that the rhythm section had ample opportunities to solo.

Before the Jazz Band went on stage, a small group consisting of saxophone, bass, piano and drums performed three pieces. The group often passed around solos, with the saxophone playing the  interludes of the melody. Another small group consisting of saxophone, bass, guitar, drums and piano also performed directly after the concert’s intermission. These groups rehearse outside of the jazz band and focus on improvisation. The solos were a great way to mix things up and to introduce the Jazz Band’s song selections.

Vibe player and band member Lisa Fujitake ’17 was one of the soloists for the piece “Stardust,” and had only positive things to say about the atmosphere and leadership of the Jazz Band.

“I really enjoy Jazz Band mainly because of Eric [band director]. He has a way of making two and a half hour-rehearsals really fun and he jokes around a lot. Also, the atmosphere of the band is really different to what I’ve experienced from being in a classical symphonic band in high school where concerts were strictly formal and audience participation was minimal.”

Thomas’s lively personality definitely shined through at the performance. Throughout the show, Thomas was cracking jokes with the audience and giving introductions to each song selection. He even had the audience participate during a piece by yelling out “Oop Bop Sh’bam” at his cue.

The Jazz band put on a vibrant show filled with great soloists, an animated director and engaged audience members. Overall, the concert was a great showcase of the variety in musical talent that can be found on our campus.

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