The WSU Jazz Ensemble and Vocal Jazz Ensemble (VoJazz) will be showcasing their latest pieces at a concert at 8 p.m. on Tuesday in Bryan Hall. They will be performing a variety of different music styles, a feature that Greg Yasinitsky, Jazz Ensemble director and School of Music professor, said would be appealing to everyone.
“The prep time for this concert was really so short,” said Dean Luethi, VoJazz director and School of Music assistant professor. “One of the tunes we’re doing is a little bit easier, but at the same time gives the students some opportunity for soloing.”
Luethi said the other pieces that VoJazz is doing are significantly more difficult. The first is a Samba piece called “James.” They are also performing “Scarborough Fair,” a traditional folk song redone by Simon and Garfunkel.
“Scarburough fair is a ballad, but it’s got a pulse to it,” he said. “It’s sort of medium tempo at the beginning and then it actually goes to a swing section ... and then it goes back to the medium tempo. So it’s a ballad but not exactly a ballad.”
VoJazz will also be singing “Summertime,” but taking more of a funk twist to it, and “I’ll Be Seeing You,” which Luethi describes as a true ballad.
Singing a true ballad has helped incorporate the new students in the group and keeps the small choir in sync.
Each singer has their own microphone, a difference from bigger ensembles, which puts a lot of pressure on each of them to blend and be in tune.
“Everybody’s voice is being amplified so even though we sing together, it’s such a responsibility for them to sing the right notes now,” Luethi said. “In all the ensembles here we ask the students to prepare well, but by having sound reinforcement that makes it different.”
VoJazz is doing these pieces in preparation for the Frank DeMiero Jazz Festival in March.
Kylie Booher, a VoJazz member and senior general studies major, will be performing the late Etta James’ famous “At Last” as a tribute to the artist’s recent passing.
The WSU Jazz Big Band will also be performing new pieces and premiering a piece by Matt Lanka, a band member, school of music graduate teaching assistant and alto saxophone player.
Lanka, who was in the band throughout his undergraduate studies in the School of Music, also coaches the rhythm section of VoJazz. The rhythm section features a drummer, a bass player and a piano.
The Big Band is seventeen members strong and has been a class since the 1970s, Yasinitisky said.
“Everytime you have unique group of individuals, you have a different personality and life to a song,” he said.
The Jazz Big Band will be going to the Jazz Northwest Festival in Spokane as a featured guest, playing for high school bands from across the state as well as recording in the studio on campus and playing at Rico’s in April.
“It’s a pretty representative jazz performance from the university,” Lanka said. “There will be a little bit of everything in the program like swing tunes (or) more traditional big band type stuff."
This event is free and open to the public.