Oberlin Jazz Ensemble Sets Gold Standard for Concerts to Come

Gabriel Kanengiser, Staff Writer

On Saturday, Nov. 5, the Oberlin Jazz Ensemble set the standard for their performances to come with an eclectic but excellent concert. The evening’s program, conducted by director Dennis Reynolds, featured two very difficult pieces by Toshiko Akiyoshi. The group executed both songs with great proficiency; however, at times the sound balance was off. The saxophones were not loud enough and were almost completely inaudible beneath the trombones and trumpets, though when it came time to solo at the mic, the saxophonists really let loose.

The show opened with a Sammy Nestico tune, “Ya Gotta Try,” which began with a solo by double-degree senior guitarist Matt Gold. Later in the first half of the performance, the dueling tenor saxophonists — double-degree sophomores Carl Mitchell and Anthony Leung — both swung in their respective solos.

When the levels were balanced, the band was hot. The highlight of the performance came right in the middle with a Bob Brookmeyer arrangement of the Hoagy Carmichael standard “Skylark,” featuring lead alto, Conservatory junior Alex Cummings, and piano, Conservatory junior and Review Photo Editor Dale Rothenberg. Rothenberg started with a dissonant melodic introduction that was actually quite eerie – an effect not usually paired with a standard such as “Skylark.” Cummings’s sweet tone contrasted noticeably with the morose piano playing as he diverged into an extremely fitting solo.

On the last tune, Akiyoshi’s “Warning! Success May Be Hazardous to Your Health,” Conservatory first-year saxophonist Jevaughn Bogard ripped a solo that summed up just how successful this band will continue to be during the remainder of the semester.

Lucky for anyone who was not able to come out this weekend, the OJE will be playing another show on Nov. 13 in the Lord Lounge, located in Afrikan Heritage House.