REVIEW: A MoodSwing Reunion

I believe this is the first time I have been to a live jazz performance. It was AMAZING.

The jazz ride the MoodSwing took the audience at the hill auditorium was a one with graceful arches, twists and turns. The night’s performance starred Joshua Redman on Saxophones, Christian McBride on bass, Brian Blade on drums, and Sullivan Fortner on the piano. These four amazingly talented musicians did not let one theme restrict them for the 90-minute show. Each piece had different moods: the vibe of the music went from cheerful, dramatic, beautiful, to playful. I used to think that jazz has a lively, humorous vibe in the background as a default. However, tonight I heard a piece that was so graceful and beautiful that it felt as though the stars were shimmering down and a one that was really serious, dramatic, and heroic. It was a discovery of jazz’s diversity and now I’m eager to dive more into the genre. If you turn the most unpronounceable, subtle emotions to music, that would be jazz. It was amazing how the musicians expressed such different shades of atmosphere with the same instruments.

I also really loved how the leading role switched from Saxophones, drums, and pianos, to the bass. I really appreciated the moment when the bass was leading, because that does not happens a lot in modern pop or rock music. Christian McBride amazed the crowd with some playful but precise shreds(with the bass! yes!). While he was at it, Sullivan at the piano was observing him and chimed in with a few notes at the curves that supported the bass sound beautifully to make the music even fuller. It was so interesting to see how the musicians were interacting and compromising while the tune is going – the risk and impulse coming from the fact that the interaction was happening live definitely made the performance thrilling and attention-grabbing. Seeing the live chemistry between the musicians definitely made the 90-minute running time feel short. If you want to explore music without the lyrics but classic does not draw your attention just yet, try going to a jazz concert. Because the emotion in the performance is more dramatic and clearly spelled out in jazz compared to classic concerts, and also because you can easily notice the different phases of music with the shift of leadership and roles between the instruments, jazz will be an easier starting point to the love for instrumental music.

PREVIEW: A Moodswing Reunion

Do You like Jazz? I do. I liked it even before I watched Disney-Pixar’s lovely appraisal for it.

I like jazz, first of its sound. It has playful, jolly, yet emotional edges and curves in its tunes. Also, the harmony between the drum, saxophone, piano, and guitar just seems to be enough. They compliment each other so well. If I think one step down the musical appreciation, I love jazz because of its freedom. Its impromptu-ness makes the musicians take the risk and discover the sound that is only present on stage. It’s always a magical, thrilling ride to see how things could go in harmony.

If there are any more jazz lovers out there, you are in luck-a interesting, the reunited crew is coming to Hill auditorium, Ann Arbor this Thursday(April 21st, 7:30 pm). It will be starring:

Joshua Redman, tenor saxophone
Brad Mehldau, piano
Christian McBride, bass
Brian Blade, drums

This group that released its album, MoodSwing, back in 1994 is reuniting again after the change of the century. This will be a great goodbye to this semester!

REVIEW: Candlelight Concert

One perk of living on campus that I’ve often taken for granted is its sheer proximity to so many great music events. As a freshman living in the dorms, this proximity was made especially apparent when I was able to simply hop over next door to the Michigan Union last Saturday evening to check out the Candelight Concert—which to me, felt like a nice personal win. 

The concert featured 15 SMTD undergraduate piano students in what was a charming blend between a professional studio recital and a laid-back show-and-tell among friends. Each piece was prefaced with a quick blurb by the performer, introducing themselves with a hand-held mic and highlighting what bits of contextualization they felt were most pertinent to experiencing the music. To add to this casual intimacy, candles piled on top of the grand piano cast a warm glow on the performers’ faces as they played while even more candles lined the rows of chairs. Warm lighting typically helps to shrink the size of a room, but in combination with the extra tall ceilings of the Rogel Ballroom, created a stripped-back bubble of space. There was also a sizeable turnout—the majority of which was notably fellow students (something you don’t often see at classical concerts), which added to the welcoming atmosphere.

The program itself was designed to feel accessible to the general public, showcasing iconic classical pieces while mixing in a few less familiar ones. From a musician’s perspective, playing these widely recognized pieces is definitely a double-edged sword—they are much easier to scrutinize, and so many interpretations already exist that it is a daunting task to bring something new up to the table. However, I was pleasantly delighted by the performances of the night. Lesley Sung’s Moonlight Sonata opening was thoughtful and breathtaking, keeping the right hand triplets solid but not overpowering and leaning into the phrasing of the top melody line. Additionally, Aleks Shameti’s Chopin Nocturne Op. 9 no 2 exuded a graceful effortlessness—his dynamic control allowed for a pillow-soft left hand and a beautiful push and pull throughout the piece. Jacob Wang’s Tchaikovsky Andante Maestoso was complex and majestic, concluding the concert with huge waves of sound. 

Out of the pieces I wasn’t already familiar with, I truly enjoyed Sua Lee’s Schumann-Liszt Widmung. Her playing was bold and emotional with audible breaths between phrases, distinctly echoing the snippet of her personality I got through her introduction to the piece. Moving over to the jazz pieces, I felt that Eric Yu’s The Man I Love fit nicely into the atmosphere with rolling chords that filled the room like a warm bubble. I also loved Robert Yan’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow arrangement, which incorporated wispy, delicate Debussy-esque passages.

Overall, I thought the concert was a lovely experience. I’d like to congratulate all the performers and thank them for sharing their music!

PREVIEW: Candlelight Concert

As the weather continues to treat us with frigid temperatures and icy gray slush, warm yourself up at the Candlelight Concert this Saturday at 8:00 PM in the Michigan Union Rogel Ballroom!

An entirely student-led event, the concert will feature 15 undergraduate pianists performing iconic classical and jazz music. According to organizer Jacob Wang, they have amassed around 750 LED candles that will decorate the piano and aisles to bring guests a cozy visual experience. Additionally, any extra profits from the event will go towards the piano department for scholarships, maintenance, and projects.

With a special focus on making the concert accessible to students and the general public, the program will incorporate a variety of genres and well-known pieces. I always get excited when I see Romantic composers on the list, but I also look forward to hearing Gershwin’s The Man I Love and I’ve Got a Crush on You, as well as Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Plus, tickets are free for UM students! What are you waiting for?

Event info: https://events.umich.edu/event/91755

REVIEW: The Short and Suite Nutcracker

While watching this show I kept thinking of what words to use to describe how awesome this is.
The Short and Suite Nutcracker by the Randazzo Dance company was a dance show featuring different dance styles. It had ballet, jazz, tap dancing, and more. For the tap-dancing, and some jazz performances there was live music which added a cherry on top. The kaleidoscope of genres kept the show refreshing and fun. I am not exaggerating when I say there were no dull moments.

All the dancers performed extremely well. There were dancers as young as, I might say, 5 years old to the oldest being seniors in high school. It was such a joy and privilege to watch all these young performers. It was wonderful to see them flaunt their skills and months of hard work. Despite the sheer number of performers, dance genres, set changes, etc. the show went smoothly. Thereby showing how well organized it was and how much practice the performers had done.

No part of this show was left unpolished. The costumes were simply gorgeous. They had been designed to really shine on stage and make every child look like a professional. The choice of music was tasteful and never boring. The lighting was well done as well as all the fun props and backgrounds.

In the second half of the show, the dances became more festive. There was a plot following the dances and it was a lot of fun. The dancers performed acrobatics, played with giant soft toys, did costume changes, and much more. It was a lively time. Their holiday energy was infectious and the pacing of the dances made the ending really extravagant and over the top in the best way possible.

I am glad I got to see all these extremely talented performers. No praises are enough for them. I know I will be on the lookout for any showcases from the Randazzo dance company!

REVIEW: Blue Bop Jazz Orchestra Winter Concert

When a band says they only rehearsed their set for two months, I do not expect the level of quality and pizzazz that I heard at the Blue Bop Jazz Orchestra’s Winter Concert last week.

The Blue Bop Jazz Orchestra is a student-run swing band at UM! As they warmed up in the Hussey Room at the Michigan League before the concert, I marveled at how they got the whole band to fit in such a tiny space, music stands and elbow room and all. The rhythm section was tucked away behind the piano so sadly from my seat I couldn’t see them very well. The advantage was that their sound truly filled the whole room.

They alternated between classic jazz pieces and holiday songs, lending each one a great interpretation of swing and mood. Complicated, syncopated rhythms are one of the trickiest parts of playing jazz music. The student leader/conductor of the band was also playing guitar, so the players only got a quiet count off at the beginning and then had to find their own way without a conductor for the rest of the piece. They did a fantastic job of it and had such a strong sense of rhythm with each other.

Improvisation is another defining element of jazz. I could never do improv but it’s one of my favorite things about jazz. It involves players spontaneously coming up with melodies over the chord progressions and accompaniment lines played by the rhythm section. It’s basically music composition on the spot!

The improv soloists were all so impressive. When a player was about to solo in the middle of a piece, they would stand up from their chair and rock the room for anywhere from a few seconds to a minute while the other sections backed them up, then sit back down to wild applause from the audience.

Overall I’m so glad I discovered this group and I cannot wait for their next concert. Their last piece of the evening was my favorite. I included a short clip of the beginning of it down below…let me know if you recognize the tune in the comments 🙂