Final jazz combos of semester features ‘very unique’ jazz guitar ensemble

The University of Rhode Island’s Jazz Ensemble is back for another Jazz Combos concert to close off this fall semester. 

As the name suggests, the concert featured performances from a variety of jazz styles, courtesy of the Department of Music. The event took place at the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall on Nov. 29.

This is the third in a series of concerts the ensemble has performed throughout the year. The ensemble’s last major performance honored the life and work of jazz pianist Chick Corea by playing a selection of his essential music. 

Dr. Emmett Goods, director of jazz studies, took the stage to give opening remarks before introducing URI’s jazz guitar ensemble. The relatively new group had prepared for some time before the show. 

“Tonight we have, about to come out on stage, our jazz guitar ensemble,” Goods said. “This is something very unique. Not many other institutions have this. This is the brainchild, the creative vision of our artist-teacher of jazz guitar, Mr. Jay Azzolina… we’re so lucky to have them.”

Jay Azzolina brings years of experience to URI as a Grammy-nominated guitarist and composer. His works include the 1988 album, “Never Too Late,” as well as collaborations with many notable musicians such as Carly Simon, Donna Summer and Chuck Mangione. In addition, he was also a former member of Spyro Gyra, a band whose eclectic discography spans jazz, R&B, pop, and funk genres.

The ensemble of six played a few original songs, ranging from fast-paced swings to slow and cool jams. Of course, their performance concluded with a round of applause.

Later that evening, the McKenna Eight, a small jazz band featuring scat singing, took the stage. They performed their original song, “Tiny Capers.” The performance showcased thrilling guitar, cello, saxophone, and drum solos throughout its 20-minute run. 

As always, the performers took a gracious bow before heading off stage. Goods returned to the stage for a final word before concluding the concert. He made mention of the numerous shows the jazz ensemble has planned for the month.

As the semester winds down, the jazz ensemble still has plenty more planned. On Dec. 9, the wind ensemble will perform; on Dec. 10, the ensemble will get festive for a “soulful holiday celebration,” with dancing; and on Dec. 11, the Department of Music will hold a senior piano recital. More details can be found at URI’s events webpage.