The WSU Jazz Ensemble paid homage to big band jazz Wednesday night in Ogden’s historic Union Station.
Close to 24 students played a jazz selection from the 1930s and ’40s, mixed with a few contemporary arrangements, inside the Grand Hall of Union Station on 25th St. The concert is one of several bimonthly free jazz performances sponsored by Ogden’s Union Station and the Weber State University performing arts department. It helps to showcase local jazz artists, many hailing from WSU.
“The groups that have performed there have been of a great quality and a variety of jazz,” said Don Keipp, director of the WSU Jazz Ensemble.
Keipp said he has had a strong passion for jazz since junior high school, and believes this ensemble is one of the best he’s had in years.
Lex Meldrum, a tenor sax player in the ensemble, said he believes the same thing, saying this year the group had “a really good lineup of players, and the ensemble is one of the best classes to be in, as far as ensembles at Weber State go.”
Meldrum is a political science major, but has been in the Jazz Ensemble for three semesters. He said he pursues it as a hobby.
“You’re able to improvise and really push yourself as far as a musician, because making something up can be difficult, but it can be worth it,” he said.
Meldrum said he also enjoys the way Keipp runs the class and treats the other members in the ensemble.
“He treats you like a professional and expects you to do well,” Meldrum said. “He doesn’t treat you like a student or like you’re not a good player. He pushes you up.”
Keipp holds auditions for anyone who wants to try out on the first day of class of the new semester, since he said he “believes great players come around unexpectedly all the time.”
“Jazz is a music of freedom,” Keipp said. “It’s independence. Anyone can step forward and display a solo and express themselves. Sometimes, they do it with a lot of notes, and that’s what turns people off. The most popular music is the most repetitive.”
The freestyle display didn’t seem to to discourage a crowd. The Grand Lobby was packed with a mixed audience of older couples, ensemble family members and WSU students, some of whom were filling class requirements, or some simply attending because they like jazz music.
“You don’t get to hear a lot of big band anymore,” said Lisa Meldrum, a WSU student who attended the concert to watch her husband, Lex. “Unless it’s a concert like this, they don’t just play it randomly like they used to in the ’40s, so it’s fun to get to hear that kind of music.”
Lisa said she believes that, as a student, being exposed to music like jazz helps with becoming well rounded.
“You can learn a lot of history through music,” she said, “and jazz is just one more era of that, because it’s something that we don’t really get now unless you’re exposed to it, like playing an instrument.”
The Jazz Ensemble’s last concert of the semester will be the Final Fall Concert at the Union Station on Nov. 22. Anyone interested in participating in the Jazz Ensemble can e-mail Keipp at firstname.lastname@example.org.