Review: Jazz Ensemble and Carmen Bradford Celebrate Ella Fitzgerald in Concert

By Alex Pearson, Staff Writer

Last Friday night, the Gettysburg College Jazz Ensemble joined Camerata and soloist Carmen Bradford to celebrate the life and legacy of Ella Fitzgerald … and it was sensational!

Carmen Bradford and the Jazz Ensemble really know how to groove. The Jazz Ensemble started the show with “Opener 2.” They had beautiful dynamics and really started off the show with a bang. The soloists, Jenna Pavis, Doug Kowalewski, and Patrick Peters were spectacular. The ensemble played with amazing force and power. The tune was reminiscent of a different time and was a great way to start the show.

They continued the show with “There Is No Greater Love.” The Jazz Ensemble had great tempo balances and the beginning was very cheery. Their dynamic changes filled the room and gave the feeling you can only get from hearing jazz and blues. Jenna Pavis’s alto saxophone solo brought the audience to thunderous applause.

Pavis said, “There was a lot of excitement. Knowing that Carmen was going to sing was really suspenseful. The opening was played at a burning tempo. I was just thinking about how I could make my lines fluid and how to make a story by coming to the climax.”

The ensemble played with a mellow tone and finished with a jazzy fade out.

“Honey Suckle Rose” was the next song and the ensemble really brought it. Carmen Bradford embodied Ella Fitzgerald but was her own superstar. The teamwork was very prevalent in this piece and the dynamic changes were phenomenal. Carmen brought great vibrato, great resonance, and an amazing stage presence. The song was full of gives and takes and the ensemble and Carmen did a beautiful job. It had mellow tones and a great jazzy ending.

Bradford had a great sense of humor and was very gracious. She told a little of her life story and then took it away with “Daydream.” There was dissonance at the very beginning and then it transformed into a lullaby sound. There were beautiful crescendos and a great swingy feeling. Jenna Pavis performed another magical solo based on Johnny Hodges’ interpretation. The piece had a fairytale feeling to it and was wonderful to experience.

“I Wish You Love” was the next piece performed. It had great dynamics and was very powerful. The piano part, played by Charles Quinn, was so delicate and intricate. Carmen once again captured us all with her voice and emotions. The ensemble jammed out. There were nifty dips in the instrumental and vocal parts. It had a swingy feeling and great tempo changes. Bradford commanded the stage and she and the ensemble finished the piece powerfully.

“The Very Thought of You” was such a fun piece to watch. It was very much a dance piece with a lot of swing. A little girl came up front and danced in front of the stage; very cute to watch! The ensemble really jammed and Carmen was on a performance high. There were awesome dynamic changes and it was very fun to experience.

Up next was “Mr. Paganini”. Carmen came alive during this piece. The performance was so soulful and it was really neat to watch the ensemble follow Carmen’s lead. The piece had a very jazzy and chord-driven feel. It had a simple quality to it and was absolutely amazing. The tempo changes were awesome and changed the quality to rhapsodic. The ensemble gave such a powerful vibe in this fantastic piece.

Carmen addressed the children in the audience and talked to them about the love of jazz. After smiling at them, she and the ensemble began “ILL Wind.” It continued building to a smooth, melancholic sound. It had great dynamic changes and beautiful emotions. The ensemble came alive and jazz truly lived in that theatre. Carmen was spectacular and the piece was awesome to experience.

Camerata then came to the stage and began to sing “I Thought About You.” It had a beautiful swingy tempo. The group harmonies were amazing. The piece had great dynamic changes and an almost “punchy” quality to it. The piece had wonderful movement and runs. They sang “Someone to Watch Over Me,” a favorite Gershwin ballad. The harmonies and emotions were perfect for the song. Camerata performed the piece a cappella and did an amazing job. The dynamic changes were great and their portamentos were seamless.

After Camerata’s beautiful pieces, the Jazz Ensemble started up again with “15 Minutes Late.” It was very melodic at first and then broke into “jazz jazz.” The piece had amazing dynamic and tempo changes. The soloists, John Glennon, Marc Tessier, Patrick Peters, and Dough Kowalewski were amazing. The song was rhythmic, yet one that the audience could rock out to. It was soulful and had great runs. The piece was very intense and the ensemble had great breath control. The ensemble was very into it. It was awesome.

Carmen applauded the ensemble and commanded the performers to take credit when credit was due and bow. Then they began the awesome tune, “Goody Goody.” It was very swingy and resonant. Everyone was really getting into the swing of things (no pun intended). It was an intense piece with an amazing jazzy ending.

The next piece was “Don’t Be That Way.” It was a very “dippy” and swingy piece. The ensemble was very rhythmic but the piece was very free vocally. There were great dynamic changes. Everyone really brought it to this piece! It was followed by “Sweet Georgia Brown,” sung by Ana Horowitz. Ana has a very snazzy and jazzy tone. She did a gorgeous job. The piece was rhythmic but melodic. Everyone did a great job was the dynamic changes. The back-and-forth repetition between the ensemble and Ana was really neat and fun. The piece was very well done.

“Tisket A Tasket” was the last official piece for the night. It embodied swing and jazz at its fullest. Many of us remember the ditty as a nursery rhyme but Carmen Bradford and the ensemble made it so much more than that. The piece had great dynamics. It was really cool to watch the Jazz Ensemble sing in response to Bradford’s queries throughout the song. Everyone had great energy and it was a fun way to (almost) end the concert. The final piece was Can’t Take That Away From Me, which Carmen dedicated to Kay Hoke. The piece was deep. It was very resonant and very beautiful. The performance was soulful and a great way to end the evening. What a great performance!

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Author: Alex Pearson

Alex Pearson '21 intends to double major with a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish with a minor in English focusing on Creative Writing. She intends to join choir as well as get involved in community service and Spanish-related activities. Follow her on Twitter @alexpearsonstar and on Instagram @smilealexpearson.

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