It’s not uncommon for the Jazz Band Conductor Tom Evans to dance on stage, but what put last week’s performance in a sentimental mood was how he celebrated the seniors’ last show with the Kalamazoo College Jazz Band.
Take, for instance, the standard “My Funny Valentine” arranged by Stan Kenton that featured Evans and Abby Keizer ’15 on trombone. While Evans adjusted the microphones, he kept the audience engaged by telling a story: It took place during Visit the Zoo, and while Evans waited for a student to show up for a trombone lesson, Keizer, just a senior in high school at the time, swung by his office to sit in. The student didn’t show up, and Evans said he would like to have Abby play in the jazz band, because “she had hunger in her eyes to learn.” Four years later, she’s changing octaves quickly to a ballad.
Other seniors also shared the spotlight for solos, including Brad Stech on guitar, Sam Lichtman-Mikol on baritone saxophone, and Bret Linvill on trumpet—who also has the talent to play classically, performing in last Friday’s Symphonic Band. Even Dr. Evans ever so casually brought out his trombone for two songs, saying he “dusted the cobwebs” off. Considering his Ph.D. in trombone performance from the University of Michigan, it was a treat to hear him play.
The variety in songs made the performance especially engaging. The band started off with the swing arrangement “Jiver’s License” by Howard Rowe with the trumpet players using ends of plungers to create a “wah-wah” blare. They cooled off by playing “Chasing the Blues,” a blues tune that offered plenty of room for solos, including Linvill’s flaring trumpet, Lichtman-Mikol’s booming baritone saxophone, Stech’s quick electric guitar riffs, and even a Charles Mingus-inspired upright bass breakdown by the music professor Dr. Beau Bothwell.
There were good numbers for dancing too, like the Birdland-inspired “Feather Report” (a play on words on the jazz fusion band Weather Report), and of course an encore dance-funk tune that the whole band jammed to after playing the songs off the program. This was apt, as Evans mentioned jazz was born as dance music.
Some seasoned jazz players joined the band for this performance along with Evans and Bothwell. Pianist Anthony Healy ’16 and tenor saxophonist Sam Pilnick ’16 both study at Western Michigan University. Alto saxophonist Gail Perkins is part of the Kalamazoo Saxophone Quartet. The seniors may have been the stars of the night, but with Evans’s quirks and jokes, there were laughs for everyone.