With an audience of almost one hundred people, the UC Irvine Small Groups performed a free jazz concert on the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 20 in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts. Despite the rain, the performance accommodated a full house, requiring some of the audience to stand for lack of seating in the small venue. Even so, the concert proved to be greatly entertaining, especially in the cozy venue — Room 218 of the Music and Media Building is favored for its acoustics, which enhanced the existing talent of the musicians. The walls, covered in black curtains, helped to enrich the moody setting created by the dimmed lights and purple glow on stage, making it feel like a very personal performance.
The concert showcased several groups of different levels and styles. Each played an average of three songs, varying in instrumentation for each set. By the end of the night, I had seen the usual bass, saxophone, drums, guitar, piano, clarinet and trumpet, but also some instruments more rare for jazz, such as the harp, tuba, flute and French horn. They played mainly in the genre of “hopping” or “swing” jazz, but also included songs with a more melancholy feel, and some of the smooth jazz genre.
The first two groups that performed played typical jazz music of the bebop and swing genre, with lively, upbeat tunes. The selected songs allowed each musician the chance for individual recognition in a solo, which was always followed by applause from the audience. Their skill was beyond what I expected and every song brought with it a new rhythm and feel.
A particularly interesting feature of the latter half of the concert was that several of the songs were student compositions, and one of the groups was entirely comprised of a jazz composition class. There were several of these unique pieces by student composers, which showed the talent and passion of some of the music students on campus. This was a superb display of the mastery of the many gifted musicians we have at UC Irvine.
The composers each shared their inspiration and influences on their work, which was very interesting to hear and take into account when listening to the pieces being performed. Some created their pieces particularly for the musical group of which they were a part of, and tailored them to their specific instruments and talents. One composer shared the influence of Latin, African and Cuban jazz on his piece; another composer combined her knowledge of biology with music; and a third drew inspiration from his everyday interactions with people.
The performances were without error and overall the concert was very enjoyable to listen to, with its variety of instruments, song choices and performers. In total, there were five different groups that performed and I was impressed with the level of skill and talent of all them.