By: Mathew Schumer
On Friday, Oct. 11, Western Connecticut State University’s School of Visual and Performing Arts hosted an evening of music provided by three of their exceptional jazz combos. For their first show of the semester, WCSU’s jazz combos performed three sets of three tunes—a blend of jazz standards and originally composed and arranged material—in the Visual and Performing Arts Center’s Veronica Hagman Concert Hall.
First to perform was the five-piece Metcalf Combo, coached by WCSU Adjunct Instructor of Music Lee Metcalf. The Metcalf Combo played a three-part set, consisting primarily of standard compositions, two of which were lead by vocalist and alto saxophonist Madeline Williams. Williams was joined by Nick Kallajain on tenor sax, Jake Falce on guitar, Steven Mastrianna on bass, and Avery Gottshal on drums.
Following the Metcalf Combo was the first of two combos coached by Co-Coordinator of Jazz Studies Dr. Jimmy Greene. Among the three tunes performed by the Greene II Combo was a composition called “L.N.K Blues” by contemporary artist Robert Glasper, who made an appearance at last year’s WCSU Jazz Fest. Included in the Greene II Combo was Griffin D’Amato on trumpet, Ryan Papagelis on alto sax, Eric Simmons on tenor sax, Elise Ngbo on piano, Rachel Merriam on guitar, Miles Livolsi on bass, and Jesse Parker on drums.
Closing out the night with two more tunes accompanied by a medley of Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn standards was the second of Dr. Greene’s combos, the Greene I Combo. Their set began with a slight bout of tuning difficulties, but the combo eventually found their groove with a powerful tone-setting performance of “Paradisiaco”, which was written and arranged by the group’s bassist Victor Ramirez. Comprising the rest of the combo was Malin Carta on alto sax and vocals, Matt Schmidt on baritone sax, Bentley Lewis on guitar, and Ethan Benton on drums.
Alongside the combos, Dr. Greene took the stage as host for the evening to address the crowd and introduce the combos. Dr. Greene also used the platform as an opportunity to inform the audience of upcoming jazz-related events at WCSU. Included among those events were the following two combo performances of the season, the latter of which, Dr. Greene said, would feature the participation of the jazz program’s “guest artist” for the Fall semester.
Members of the WCSU and local communities are encouraged to attend the next jazz combo performance, which will take place on Sunday, Nov. 3 at 3 p.m. in the Visual and Performing Arts Center’s Veronica Hagman Concert Hall.