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FHSU Jazz Ensembles earn standing ovation

11/10/2013

Brad Dawson, director, and the FHSU Jazz Ensembles never cease to amaze me. Dawson, a well-known jazz musician in his own right, consistently attracts highly gifted students. Everyone loves to play solo and in ensemble, and gives their all and more in a concert.

Thursday's performance was better than ever. Both ensembles, featuring an army of soloists, had the large crowd in Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center jumping for joy.

Jazz Ensemble II led off with "Skylight," a lively big-band piece by John Fedchock, with saxophone soloist Val Terrazas. No fewer than five soloists emblazoned Jeff Tyzik's equally lively "Downtown Shuffle." Maria Schneider's slow and dreamy "City Sunrise" featured Cory Huggins on flugelhorn. Kevin Pham on vibes and pianist Ashley McKinley gave a bouncy texture to "Elektric City" by Chick Corea.

The more advanced Ensemble I then took over with Jerome Kern's ballad "The Way You Look Tonight," jazzed up by Mike Tomaro and enlivened with a drum solo by Michael Walker. Saxophonist Brian Keller earned his first round of enthusiastic applause for the evening. Guitarist Corey Huggins and Keller collaborated in "Great Northern Express," a train piece by Fred Storm with lots of stops and starts. Arturo Sandoval's "Sandunga" wound up the first set with a Latin beat.

Keller and Matt Rome began the next set with solos in Chico O'Farrill's "Groovy Encounters," after which Rome distinguished himself with a melting tenor sax solo on Pat Metheny's slow and sweet "Always and Forever," arranged by Robert Curnow. But the last two numbers really brought down the house.

Oliver Nelson's "Critic's Choice" starred the whole saxophone section as they happily conversed with each other. This gave Aislinn Walters, Micah Dunn and Maggie Zody a good chance to get a lick or two in edgewise. Keller had a wild solo in Bill Reddie's "Channel One Suite," but it was Stryder Montgomery's even wilder performance on drums that made the audience stand up and cheer.

Don't miss the FHSU Theatre production of "The Miss Firecracker Contest" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 17 in Felten-Start Theater. Oboist Kay Werth and a small orchestra also will offer "An International Music Sampling" at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 17 in Beach/Schmidt.

Ruth Firestone is a supporter of the arts and frequent contributor to The Hays Daily News.