There are few who would disagree that jazz music is the only worldwide genre that is authentically American.† Steadily evolving and expanding its borders since its creation in the early 20th century, the jazz world has seen multiple great names that have shaped its course and influenced music around the globe.
Today, however, these legends are not as well known among the American population.† Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong are certainly not strangers to anyoneís ear.† ìTheyíre jazz musicians,” one might respond when asked about them.† But what about such names as McCoy Tyner, Dave Holland, and Gordon Goodwin?† Unless familiar with the jazz world, these names would cause the common person to draw a blank.
If one who had never even set foot in the world of American jazz were to dive in and gain knowledge, he or she would be stunned at the vastness of the culture.† The culture has created its own genres within the jazz realm, and to become well versed in its styles and types can take multiple lifetimes of study.† Thus, jazz music has developed on its own, apart from American pop music, wondering what has taken the U.S. population so long to acknowledge its breadth and complexity as art music.
However, there are those who strive to bring high-class jazz music to the ears of the common listener.† The College of Wooster Jazz Ensemble is no exception.† Known for diverse and high-energy performances, the Jazz Ensemble has performed many concerts in the past years, bringing jazz stars to the college stage.† Local greats Don Braden and Paul Ferguson have made appearances, and cultural jazzers such as Chuchito Valdez have even claimed the stage.† This last Saturday among the many festivities of Family Weekend, the ensemble delivered what viewers say was the best show they have seen in many years.
The night began with an eclectic selection, performed by the Wooster Jazz Ensemble alone.† Selections included Wayne Shorterís 1966 masterpiece ìFootprints,” arranged by the Collegeís own Etienne Massicotte í12.† Massicotteís super-powered trumpet chops were later featured in ìI Remember Clifford,” Benny Golsonís tribute to jazz trumpet legend Clifford Brown, who met an early death in a car accident at the young age of 25 in 1956.† First-year Saxophonist Micah Motenko, high-energy pianist Jake Briggs í10, and smooth-feel guitarist Nick Terelle í10 also took the solo spotlight throughout the first set.† It was during the second act, though, that a piece of jazz history entered the stage.
Throughout his time here, Jeff Lindberg, the Jazz Ensembleís director, has gotten many large names to come to play in Wooster, in part due to his position as director the of Chicago Jazz Orchestra.† This last Saturday was no exception, as Lionel Frederick ìFreddy” Cole walked up to the piano with grand applause.† Kicking the night off with a few of his own favorites, Coleís trio, powered with drummer Curtis Boyd, upright bassist Elias Bailey, and young jazz guitarist Randy Napolean, Cole dazzled the audience with a unique sound that, although resembling that of Freddyís formidable brother Nat King Cole, created a aura of an old musical history being taught by an elder man to his grandchildren.† Freddy Cole, at 78 years, was at no inability to entertain, still throwing sparse, tasteful piano riffs and using his characteristic raspy vocals.† The audience found it difficult to keep from dancing in the middle of McGaw Chapel.
The evening ended with Woosterís Jazz Ensemble taking the stage once again, but this time with Freddy as the lead man.† The young, driving energy of the Jazz Ensemble combined with the classic suave of Freddy and his guitarist created a collaboration that stretched the minds of all the listeners in the packed chapel.† The finale ended with a medley tribute to the great Nat King Cole, with Freddy putting in the final word that although he may look, sound and act like Nat, he is still Freddy, and has his own unique musical style that is gaining rapid popularity throughout and beyond the world of jazz.
People entered the show unfamiliar with Coleís style, and unfamiliar with jazz music as a whole.† Many of them left, however, asking themselves why they had not sooner indulged in this delightful bit of American heritage.