The University of Rhode Island Big Band Concert was performed as a tribute to the late jazz drummer and bandleader Art Blakey last Friday night. 

The music was composed from his bands and younger musicians he mentored in his band, the Jazz Messengers, prior to his death in 1990. The concert audience was composed of a wide variety of students, middle aged couples and senior citizens who wanted to be encompassed with the jazz music being performed right in front of them.

Student Emma Gauvin attended the concert for a particular purpose and expected to see a concert related to the History of Jazz.  

“It was a requirement for my music class to come see the show and write a paper about it,” Gauvin said. 

The students assigned to attend the concert encouraged other students to experience the performance of the jazz band. Aidan Naughton was one student who was convinced to attend the show by his friends. 

“A bunch of my friends had to go for history of jazz so they asked ‘do you want to come,’” Naughton said. “I then said sure, why not”.

The concert began after the audience settled into their seats at the Fine Arts Center with Calvin Stemley receiving an award. Stemley was acknowledged for his talent with a plaque prior to performing on the tenor saxophone on three or four jazz songs in the concert.   

The URI Big Band Concert showcased a wide variety of slow and upbeat jazz music to introduce a new audience and entertain older audiences who remember the music from the past. The jazz music program was placed in a particular order with the upbeat songs of “Ping Pong” and “Caravan” being performed between slower jazz songs of “The Nearness of You” and “Dat Dere.” The variety of music and solos from the URI jazz band was met with full audience interest and encompassing sound within the whole auditorium.

The concert was also dedicated to Ronald “Butch” Perkins, who worked as a jazz radio host before passing away in early March of this year. Before each performance, Conductor Emmett Goods talked about the history of each of the selected jazz songs including how the lyrics were written to “Dat Dere” after the music was originally composed. Vocalist Erin McGowan sang the lyrics to the jazz songs “Pensativa,” “The Nearness of You,” “Daghoud” and “Dat Dere” during the concert.  

Naughton thoroughly enjoyed the variety of music and effort from the jazz band during the concert.

“It was awesome, they all rocked and every person’s solos were so good,” Naughton said. “It was just like a rollercoaster.”

 The concert performed jazz songs with a mix of trumpet, saxophone, trombone and drum solos from the prepared URI Big Band. The positive reaction to the concert could be seen throughout the audience who tapped their feet and gave their wholehearted attention towards the music surrounding the auditorium. The concert concluded with the upbeat composition “Alamode” that was originally performed by Blakey’s band “Jazz Messengers” and composed by Curtis Fuller.

After the conclusion of “Alamode,” the audience discussed their positive experience at the concert outside the auditorium. Most of the students assigned to see the concert including James Best were both surprised and entertained throughout.

“I thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Best. “I think ‘Backstage Sally’ was probably my favorite.”

The URI Big Band concert led by Conductor Emmett Goods fulfilled its purpose of showcasing the legacy of Blakey. Future concert dates can be found on the University‘s Music Department website.