By Ainsley Green, Staff Writer
On Friday, Nov. 10, the Gettysburg College Jazz Ensemble performed their first concert of the academic year entitled “Autumn Leaves” with a special guest artist, saxophonist Tim Warfield. The music began at 8 p.m., and a variety of jazz standards were played and sung by the Jazz Ensemble and Camerata. Each group was made up of a variety of Sunderman Conservatory of Music students.
To open the concert, the Jazz Ensemble played four pieces by themselves under the direction of Conservatory music lecturer Amanda Heim. Many students were featured for solos within the pieces and were able to showcase their improvisation skills to the audience. They played numerous famous songs, starting with “Bernie’s Tune” by Bernie Miller.
“You might have noticed someone jumping into the back of our percussion section,” Heim remarked during the performance, as Conservatory professor and director of bands Dr. Russell McCutcheon joined the ensemble for their second piece, “Congo Mulence” by A.K. Salim.
Next, the band played a Lee Morgan tune entitled “The Joker.” Finally, they performed “I Remember Clifford” by Benny Golson, a ballad in memory of great trumpeter Clifford Brown, and Jacob Hunkins ’24 as a featured performer on the trumpet.
Conservatory associate professor and director of choral activities Robert Natter proudly introduced the choral group Camerata after they sang their first song of the evening, jazz standard “Autumn Leaves” by Joseph Kosma and Johnny Mercer. Natter gave a short introduction of what the group was going to be performing and then conducted their remaining two songs.
“Since the concert is named after ‘Autumn Leaves,’ we thought it would be good to do that tune in the concert,” Natter said. “We’re going to do another jazz standard, ‘The Nearness of You,’ that will take it down a notch and then something just for fun: ‘The Swingle Song’ after the Swingle Singers of the 1960s.”
Camerata was made up of only eight students, but their voices filled up the hall, and their excitement to sing together was apparent to the audience.
After Camerata’s performance, guest artist Warfield performed with the Conservatory’s Adjunct Jazz Ensemble Director and jazz pianist Eric Byrd. The musicians took the stage to give the audience a snippet of their remarkable talents on the saxophone and piano.
“So, it’s a pleasure to be back here and in Gettysburg, and [it’s] always a pleasure to perform with the students and the professors,” Warfield addressed the audience.
Before playing, Warfield said, “We don’t really know what we’re going to do. We’re going to kind of figure that out. We kind of talked about it. I might change my mind.”
The crowd was silent as Warfield and Byrd played spontaneous duets and alternating solos. The music filled the room, and the performers never missed a beat. This improvisation was extremely impressive and captivated the entire theater.
After Warfield’s introduction, he joined the Jazz Ensemble for three more jazz tunes, playing the featured saxophone parts. The first two pieces, “Origins” and “A Cool Blue,” were Warfield’s own compositions, and it appeared to be a full circle moment for Warfield to watch his musical successes be performed with young musicians, especially since Warfield grew up in Central Pennsylvania. Warfield also performed the piece “Ow!” by John “Dizzy” Gillespie, which featured him on saxophone once again, and he was accompanied by several other student soloists.
For the final three pieces of the concert, Warfield left the stage, and the Jazz Ensemble finished out the night with their own repertoire, which again featured many musicians performing short solos and improvisations. These pieces included “Portrait of Sidney Bechet” by Duke Ellington, “The Intrepid Fox” by Freddie Hubbard and “A Warm Breeze” by Sammy Nestico.
After the show, Heim spoke on her favorite part of directing the Jazz Ensemble: “My favorite part about directing the Jazz Ensemble is working with these students at the college. They come in every week and work so hard and we have such a good time. The product is the type of music that people want to listen to and want to dance to. It is all about working with them.”
When asked what her favorite piece of the night was, she responded, “That’s a hard question. Personally, I love Duke Ellington, so I really love ‘The Portrait of Sidney Bechet,’ but I think working with the band with ‘The Intrepid Fox’ was really special because I think it pushed them to a new place musically that I don’t think they knew they could go.”
This concert was the main performance by the Jazz Ensemble for the fall semester, but many more upcoming events are approaching, including the Wind Symphony concert on Nov. 17, the Symphony Orchestra concert on Dec. 1 and the Winter Choral Concert on Dec. 2.