Photo by Greg Clark | URI’s Jazz Big Band held their first concert of the year with a focus on Latin Jazz.
On Oct. 26, the University of Rhode Island’s music department held their first Jazz Big Band concert of the year in the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall.
The concert was conducted by Emmett Goods, a lecturer in the music department. This is Goods’ second year as a professor and has previously taught at Springfield College and Benedict College.
The concert had a Latin Jazz focus as the original guest musician to the band was going to be Ray Vega, a famous jazz musician well known for his Latin-infused style of jazz. However, when Vega called and told Goods he was too ill to perform, Goods and Vega brainstormed other trumpet players who could step in.
They agreed on Josh Evans, a notable jazz player who is longtime friends with Goods. The two met when Evans was in high school and Goods was in college. Goods was pleased to have Evans come under such short notice.
“It’s good to have friends,” Goods said. “Unfortunately, Ray got ill and called me and said, ‘my doctor really doesn’t want me to travel.’ So Ray Vega and I talked about this long list of trumpet players and Josh was on Ray’s mind and luckily, we were able to get Josh to come.”
The performance started with a separate band of URI students called “Free For All” who played three songs. “Free For All” is a jazz combo offered to jazz performance majors as a class. Senior Alto Saxophonist Isaiah Brown is a member of “Free For Fall” who thinks that the experience of playing with these particular students has been beneficial for him.
“I think performing with the jazz combo is a really great experience,” Brown said. “You really get to learn how to communicate with each other and you’ll learn those skills with you’re playing a gig with four or five people that you don’t even know. I like having that very small experience.”
After that, the main band took over. They performed a variety of songs ranging from Latin Jazz and other classic pieces. In the second song, they introduced the singer for the night, sophomore Erin McGowan.
This is McGowan’s first year singing with the band. She grew up with a love for jazz from her father, which fueled her to give jazz singing a try. She found that she really grew to enjoy the environment of the band. “It’s a very friendly environment so even the people I didn’t know when I first went in, I got to know them all pretty well. They’re all great,” McGowan said.
Soon after, Josh Evans was introduced to the audience. Evans performed a variety of solos that added to the band’s energy and the night as a whole. Though Evans arrived earlier that day, it was clear that he was very prepared to handle an event of this nature.
“As a jazz musician, you get used to jumping into situations you’re not comfortable with,” Evans said. “That’s the great thing about it, being able to be free enough to just play and see some music in front and interpret it your way and go with the flow.”
Overall, the night was well received by those involved with the concert, including Joseph Parillo, director of jazz studies at URI. Parillo was very satisfied with how the event turned out.
“It’s the first event of the season,” Parillo said. “We had twice the audience we would usually have. A lot of students from the history of jazz classes came to the concert and they seemed excited about it. Former graduates came and absolutely loved the concert. We have a great and diverse audience.”
Parillo also spoke on how proud he was of the band and how well they played. He spoke on how the band has risen to a level well above expectations. “They really rose to the occasion,” Parillo said. “They’re playing like a professional ensemble. It’s a pretty high-end college ensemble. We’ve reached that level which is absolutely wonderful.”
Senior Tenor Saxophonist, Andrew Hellwig, spoke about the energy felt from the crowd after the performance. He loved the feeling from the crowd and how infectious they were all through the night. Hellwig also talked about what it was like to have solos throughout the night.
“[Having a solo] feels good,” Hellwig said. “It’s almost like you have a combo but you have backgrounds going on. It’s just a good feeling when you get to get up there and have your moment to show people what you’re all about.”
Also very pleased with the performance of the band, sophomore Trumpeter Michael Robinson admitted he was nervous at times. “It was phenomenal,” Robinson said. “We played so good. We did a rehearsal yesterday and it sounded amazing. We were all nervous that we weren’t gonna bring the same sound tonight but we did.”
Robinson also spoke on how Goods affected the band in a positive way.
“Emmett is the best,” Robinson said. “He is by far one of my favorite teachers and one of the greatest teachers here. He’s turned the big band into something massive. We’re playing tunes that are pushing us to go further. Everyone is sounding really good. That’s because he is rehearsing us and he is making sure that nothing is off.”
The URI Jazz Big Band is playing this Friday at Pump House Music Works in Wakefield, Rhode Island. All details can be found on the Pump Works website.