By Bry Woodard
A sold out Cat in the Cream hosted the first Jazz Forum of the semester on February 17th at noon. Some audience members sat in chairs, some chose the floor, while others were forced to stand, packed in like sardines in anticipation of the show.
With no introduction, Abel Cecchi (trombone), Colin Lenard (saxophone), Nash McBride (piano), and Sammy Davies (trumpet) jumped right into “Beautiful Jasmine” (Mo Li Hua) a melancholy Chinese folk song that sounded not exactly like a rainy day, but more like a light drizzle. In the middle, the crowd was surprised as John Jiang, arriving late, began assembling his drum set on stage before promptly joining in as soon as the last cymbal was attached. He took no time inserting himself into the piece, bringing together the horns and piano in perfect harmony. Following Cecchi’s artistically crafted trombone solo, the horn players moved aside and let the piano and drums go for a dance.
As the applause died down, Leonard began Jimmy Heath’s “Gingerbread Boy” which had all toes tapping, even those of the listeners who were blessed with a seat. Its melody played in perfect accord, the piece gave way to horn solos backed by piano and light drums. Davies stole the show with a trumpet solo seasoned with abrupt, yet cleverly placed pauses that gave way to glorious runs. Each solo inspired waves of applause which McBride ate up as he beamed to the crowd while his hands sailed up and down the piano. The best part was not the music itself, but rather the joy and energy the performers shared as they smiled and nodded encouragingly at each other.
Apologizing for being late, Jiang introduced his fellow bandmates announcing, “I think this next song is the one you all are here for.” And so began Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” with Davies playing a soft melody which was repeated by Leonard, who was now playing the famous bassoon solo on saxophone. The entire arrangement held the audience captive anticipating… something, building into a call and response that never quite lived up to the reputation of the well-known piece.
After the performance the band admitted that The Rite of Spring “sounded better in the practice room.” Davies affirmed, “Yeah, we butchered that one,” as one audience member commented on the arrangement’s lack of unity. Despite the shortcomings of the closer, the opening works were a delightful mix of energy and serenity, bringing smiles to the faces of everyone, standing or sitting.