The URI Big Band performed to a full house during their first concert of the semester. Photo by Anna Meassick.

The URI Big Band, comprised of students musicians, excelled at their performance last Friday

Student performers shined at the University of Rhode Island Fine Arts Center last Friday as they performed a jazz concert for fellow students and other concert-goers.

A group of six students opened up the show performing songs from the 20th century. The group was called “Free For All,” which was a fitting name for the performers who spread around various solos across all of their songs. The group’s ability to individually shine while also sounding cohesive impressed sophomore attendee Sean McCarthy.

“It was good to see each soloist get their own little moment to show off their skills,” he said. “I thought the songs were good for showing off all of their different styles.”

Patrick Drake and Dan Cook played the baritone saxophone and alto saxophone respectively, while Fiona Greenough was the only singer. Meanwhile Ted Kutcher was the pianist, Tom Corey strung away on the bass guitar and Nate Hanrahan was the drummer.

A lot of the group’s music was upbeat, and it was up to the players on the piano, drums and bass to provide the rhythm section for the four songs. Greenough sang in the opening number “Softly, As in a Morning Sunshine,” but did not sing in all of the group’s songs.

Sophomore Alysa Pasniewski was also impressed with the performance by the group who provided a lead-in to the main act.

“As an opening act it did lead me into a nice intro of jazz music,” Pasniewski said.

The second act to perform was the URI Big Band. They consisted of nine different instruments for 17 student performers. Music department faculty member James Himmelmen accompanied the ensemble on the piano.

The Big Band was conducted by Emmet Goods, a URI professor who also teaches History of Jazz. McCarthy has him as his instructor of the class, and beamed when asked about Goods.

“Him in class and him on stage; the exact same person,” he said. “Very charismatic, and really showed his personality throughout the performance.”

Similar to the opening act, the ensemble featured numerous songs that did not have vocals. Those that did were sung by Erin McGowan, a setup that Pasniewski wasn’t totally in favor of.  

“Personally, I liked the jazz music without vocals,” she said. “If I were to think of a vocalist for jazz music, I would think more male than female, but it was surprising to see two females as jazz vocalists.”

In total, the band played nine songs that spanned across multiple American jazz musicians such as Duke Ellington and Oliver Nelson. Wes Montgomery, the American jazz player who is notable for plucking his guitar strings in a unique manner, was featured four times by the band. His songs were distinguishable from the others played because of the variations in instruments used. “Douje” featured a freestyle drum portion, while “Movin’ Wes” was the only song of the night to have a cowbell in it.

The URI Big Band performs again on April 25 at 8 p.m. at the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall.