Jazz Ensemble performs excellent tribute to Pastorius

Despite the icy weather in February delaying their performance for three months, The College of Wooster Jazz Ensemble and Italian professional† electric bass guiatrist Maurizio Rolli put forth an excellent show in tribute to legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius last Friday in McGaw Chapel.

The College’s Jazz Combo opened the show with performers Micah Motenko ’13 and Keenan McDonald ’14 on alto saxophones, Etienne Massicotte ’12 on piano, Eric Moizuk ’14 on bass and Ben Turner ’14 on drums. The combo began with “Wusta Blues,”†a standard among Wooster’s jazz program, before delving into Duke Ellington’s†”Caravan”† and Miles Davis’†”Solar.”

The members traded solos throughout each song, easing the audience into the show with their smooth yet proficient playing. The combo finished its performance and began the actual tribute to Pastorius with a much higher-energy song, Weather Report’s classic “Birdland.” Much like how Pastorius was the main attraction during his tenure in Weather Report, Moizuk’s bass playing was heavily emphasized in this interpretation, and there was a noticeable change in mood across the building after the performance.

Following the Jazz Combo was Rolli and the College’s Jazz Ensemble, directed and conducted by Jeffrey Lindberg. The sound of a full band was clearly in effect from the beginning, as it opened with a powerful rendition of Pastorius’ “Soul Intro” and “The Chicken,” which featured excellent solo work from Kyle Smucker ’13 on tenor saxophone and Motenko on Hammond organ. Of course, the highlight of the show was Rolli’s effortless bass playing, which took center stage on Weather Report’s most famous song, “Teen Town.”†The band as a whole added an explosive level of color that is absent from the original recording, building to a noisy but impressive climax.

The band slowed it down for the next three songs ó Weather Report’s† “Three Views of a Secret”†and “Havona”†followed by Rolli’s own composition, “D-Jaco.”†”Three Views of a Secret”† was a strong ballad featuring soaring vocals by Jeanne Miller that rose and fell with the sounds of the band. “Havona”†is known for one of Pastorius’†most famous solos, which Rolli played with jaw-dropping skill and speed. Electric guitarist Tyler Campbell ’14 also had a chance to shine on this song with a powerful solo of his own.

“D-Jaco,” which Rolli composed in tribute to Pastorius as well as American jazz pianist John Lewis and renowned two-fingered Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, brought Miller back out for another beautiful performance and featured more strong lead play from Campbell.

The concert ended with two faster-paced songs: Charlie Parker’s classic “Donna Lee”†and Weather Report’s complex “Liberty City.”† Rolli and the ensemble again complemented each other strongly and naturally, making these difficult numbers sound far easier than they were.

Overall, it was a very strong concert for everybody involved, and the success was even greater considering the delay. Rolli and the College’s ensemble provided a perfect tribute to one of the most renowned musical figures of the 20th century.

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