The University of Michigan SMTD jazz bands came together last Thursday night to present a double-bill performance containing early jazz music, student arrangements, and classic big band repertoire. The two ensembles are led by Chris Smith (Early Jazz Ens.) and Dennis Wilson (Jazz Lab Ens.). This musically diverse concert contained a wide spectrum of jazz music.
The first hour and a half of this concert showcased 13 tunes, most of which were transcribed and arranged by Chris Smith, the interim band leader. None of these tunes were written any later than 1929, which intrinsically implies a specific style. The band was sensitive to the ensemble sound and rendered nuanced improvisational solos that supported the style. Two band members from the horn line (Callum Roberts and Houston Patton) lifted their voices in song during the tunes “Mr. Jelly Roll”, and “Six or Seven Times”. The audience adored this unexpected performance.
The Lab Band brought us back for the second half of the concert. The band’s repertoire was developed 10-20+ years later than the early jazz set, bringing a much different sound into the mix. They included two student arrangements: “This Little Light of Mine” arr. by Gavin Ard and “Dinah” arr. by Liam Charron. Both arrangements were equally impressive and enchanting—it’s inspiring to see such polished original student work within SMTD ensembles.
The Lab Band later featured singer Stephanie Reuning-Scherer on the tune “The Song is You”. Ms. Reuning-Scherer wonderfully adhered to the jazz style and was a satisfying performer to watch. It is wonderful to hear vocalists with the jazz bands continuing the tradition of vocal jazz in community settings.
The final song of the concert was a world-premiere piece written by director Dennis Wilson, entitled “Rhythms From The Flint Hills”. Additional players joined in, including tablas, bassoon, violin, flute, and electric bass. This was a long and harmonically complex work and offered a unique sound texture that contrasted the music before the concert.
The entirety of the performance allowed the audience to indulge in a historical journey through jazz history, including compositions spanning over 100 years of music.
There are numerous events around campus hosting jazz music. The Blue Bop Jazz Orchestra’s annual holiday concert is on Friday, December 8th at 6 pm in the Michigan League Ballroom. The next concert for the SMTD Jazz Ensemble will be back at Rackham on February 20th at 8p.
Image thanks to @UMICHSMTD on Instagram.