“We have rehearsed exactly zero times this semester,” announced Dr. Dan Jonas, D.M.A., assistant director of bands and director of jazz studies at Weber State University. The Weber State Jazz Combo and Jonas met for approximately 25 minutes at the university, quickly selecting pieces before their improv set.
Weber State’s Jazz Combo took to the stage Jan. 11 to perform at the “Jazz at the Station” event in downtown Ogden. Held the second Wednesday of every month at 7:00 p.m., Jazz at the Station invites musicians to exhibit their jazz prowess in the acoustics of the Grand Lobby of the Union Station.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this month, the event has occurred annually since 1997. The jazz concerts are free to the public, funded through donations and grants. “We’re doing this purely on love and enthusiasm,” explained Caril Jennings, the program’s director, in opening remarks to the audience. A deep appreciation for music fuels the program’s ambition to provide the community with a free jazz concert every month.
A hallmark of the genre is improvisation. As Jonas explained, “What makes jazz so unique is that we make it up. It’s improv at its finest.”
Spontaneously combining notes and rhythms to express emotion creates the beautiful complexities of jazz, Jonas said, adding, “It is the most exhilarating thing you can imagine. Jazz can seem like a mystery.”
The combo played pieces like “Triste” by Antonio Carlos Jobim and “Fly Me to the Moon” by Bart Howard.
Teagan Davis, zoology major and trumpeter in the Jazz Combo, believes “An important part of jazz is making it interesting for the people listening,” adding that improv can be terrifying, but he plays for “… those few small moments … that you sound great.”
“The most important thing any musician can do — period — is to listen,” said Jonas when commenting on the combo’s ability to improv. Dedication and devotion are influential factors in a jazz musician’s effectiveness in eliciting emotion. However, it is their ability to listen to the music and to their bandmates that makes the art exceptional.
“Emotions can be portrayed differently through different people,” said Brittany Hamilton, attendee and member of the Weber State University band. Jazz “can pump you up, especially the high notes in the solo. You can feel excitement.”
Audience member Justin Green explained that the emotions one feels while listening to jazz, “… depends on the song, even down to ten seconds in the song.” And while audiences can feel deeply during a jazz piece, there are also light-hearted aspects of the music that can create deep dimension within the genre. “There’s a lot of humor involved,” Green said. “(One of the soloists) quoted the ‘Mission Impossible’ theme song. It’s a funny joke.”