UConn Jazz Showcase highlights student talent

Various jazz groups at UConn gathered at the completely packed UConn Bookstore in Storrs Center Thursday evening to present a collective showcase filled with lively hits from Herbie Hancock, Wes Montgomery, and other composers. (Akshara Thejaswi/The Daily Campus)

The Spring 2017 UConn Jazz Showcase took place at the Ballard Institute Theater last night. The performance featured the UConn Jazz Ensemble and four combo groups, who played a wide arrangement of songs that highlighted student talent. The small theater was filled with audience members excited to hear the great jazz music to come.

The show began with the UConn Jazz Ensemble, directed by Douglas Maher. The Jazz Ensemble preformed four songs for the audience, including “Soul Vaccination,” “Harlem Air Shaft,” “Sandu” and “The Coffee Queen.” John Mastroianni, co-director for the UConn Jazz Ensemble, wrote and arranged the song “The Coffee Queen,” which added a personalized touch.

Each song illustrated the different instruments and students within the UConn Jazz Ensemble, making sure to showcase the varying talents of the group. One of the highlights of the UConn Jazz Ensembles performance were the powerful and complex drum solos by student musicians Steven McArdle and Tim Dickson. Tenor sax player Kevin Duffy was also featured in several songs, bringing down the house with his intricate saxophone solos.

After the UConn Jazz Ensemble left the stage, the 9:30 band took over. The 9:30 band was the first of four combos to perform, playing two songs for the audience. What set the 9:30 band apart from other combos was the inclusion of less popular jazz instruments, like the vibraphone and accordion. The sounds all worked well together, making for a well-rounded and exciting performance.

After the 9:30 band was the 8:30 band, who performed the songs “Cheryl” and Richard Rogers’ “I Could Write a Book.” Student musician Austin Frandino had a notable trumpet performance, and guitarist Yeats Bramble also played his instrument exceptionally well for the combo.

The next combo was Wunderkinder and they performed “Full House” and “Blue ‘n’ Boogie,” both by Wes Montgomery. Ryan Heilemann put on a great performance on the alto sax, the entire combo complimenting each other nicely.

The final combo to perform at the Jazz Showcase was Standard Deviation. Standard Deviation played “New York Minute” and the Beatles hit “Norwegian Wood.” Patrick Adams had a phenomenal performance on the guitar, playing fairly complicated arrangements with ease. After their performance, the audience called for an encore, prompting Standard Deviation to preform one more song.

Samantha Card, a fourth semester music education major frequented many performances, stating, “I usually go to the jazz nights, which are here every Thursday night from seven to nine. You got to hear the big band and the different combos, so I thought it was a great overall experience to get both.”

“It’s nice because we are predominantly a classical school, but we also have this really strong jazz program and it’s nice to come see what the jazz studies students do,” she said.

Second semester fine arts major Sam Rodriguez shared a similar sentiment, telling the Daily Campus about the hard work put in by the combo groups, “I think the combos are really cool because they do these songs on their own, they don’t really practice with an instructor, and they set this up by themselves.”

This semester’s Jazz Showcase did a great job highlighting the talent of UConn students, providing them with an opportunity to show off their hard work and dedication for the community.


Lauren Brown is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at lauren.brown@uconn.edu.