Jazz is a musical style that began in African American communities in the southern United States around the beginning of the twentieth century. It was a new style of music that brought together music traditions from West Africa and Europe. Some of its West African musical influences give jazz its unique sound. Jazz has many different elements, which are improvisations, swinging, using blue notes, and combining different rhythms. I attended The Bill and Helen Murray Jazz Residency Program featured Ellery Eskelin on the Saxophone with Susan Acorn on the pedal steel guitar and Michael Formanek on the acoustic bass and The Towson University Jazz Faculty Ensemble Featuring Dave Balloy on the trumpet, flugelhorn, and piccolo trumpet, Jim Mc falls on the trombone and baritone, Tim Murphy on the piano, Jeff Reed on the bass and last but not least, Frank Russo on the drums and cymbals.
At each concert about four songs were performed. The musical elements in both performances that classify the music I heard as jazz were the swing rhythms and improvisations. The Jazz Residency Program was based on improvisations. Each player at this concert; had the ability to instantaneously compose, revise and perform their parts amazingly. As Ellery played the Sax, Susan and Michael played their instrument spontaneously creating fresh melodies.
At the Jazz Faculty ensemble, the musicians played songs that were previously written. Their musical styles were mostly bebop and swing with lots of call and respond. Jim Mc falls would play his trombone and all group members would follow after him. The song “Moodly” sounded like bebop, because there were a lot of bass drum bombs and tonal clashes. “Marsch der freien Sound Fur Funf Instrumente” was also a bebop song that was played with extended harmonies and tonal clashes.
Some of the non-traditional jazz elements that I heard were played at both of the Jazz Concerts. Susan Acorn played the pedal steel guitar, which I found to be a non-traditional element. The sound was completely different from what I had ever heard before. At the Jazz Faculty Ensemble, Dave Ballou played the Piccolo Trumpet for the last piece “Conversion”. The high-pitched sound made the song slur and blend with soft melodies.
Listening to each concert, gave me two totally different experiences. The Jazz Residency concert was all improvisations, so it didn’t remind me of any of the music I had heard before. The Jazz Faculty ensemble was a reminder of music styles like Art Tatum, John Coltrane, and Duke Ellington. When they played Hamster in a bucket it’s reminded me of “In a Mellotone” by Duke Ellinton. Then Dave Ballou played the trumpet in the song “Cry Baby” like Miles Davis played the trumpet in the song “So What”.
In conclusion, the quality of both performances was outstanding. Each performance was completely different and that’s what I loved. The jazz residency program was completely improvised, leaving me opened and surprised at every note each player chose to play. The Jazz Faculty Ensemble’s songs had a distinctive vibe. They made the sounds of their music come together and I felt the rhythm. I would defiantly pay to see each performance again. I left the concerts smiling, because I felt as if I knew exactly what they were trying to accomplish with their music. The two ensembles I attended featured some of the most talented musicians I ever heard performing at Towson University.