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Photo Credit: Fei Fei Ma for TRW

UMBC faculty jazz concert

Doors on the side of the stage open. One after another, each performer enters the stage and heads to their respective area, getting settled in their space. Tom Baldwin, the bassist, Matt Belzer, the saxophonist, Tom Lagana, guitarist, Michael Noonan, vibraphonist, Scott Tiemann, drummer and Tom Williams, trumpet. The count-off begins: “a one, a two, a one two three and…”

The first song, written by Tiemann, entitled “Aggression,” felt like something one would expect from a general modern jazz combo, very smooth and swinging. The tune started with the head being played by the trumpet and tenor saxophone. The vibes played the chords in place of the piano, as the pianist could not make the performance. There were solos from the trumpet, vibes and sax and closing with the head being played once again.

Belzer then introduced the performers, cracked a couple of jokes and stepped aside along with Noonan and Williams for the next piece entitled “Hangover.”

The song commenced with the main melody being played by the guitar. Its elegant, clear tone highlighted every note and chord played. The first solo by the bass player was nice, but rather quiet and hard to hear. After this solo, a quaint, laid back and smooth guitar solo took center stage, and closed with the main melody.

Following this song, the trumpet, sax and vibes made a reappearance on the next song, which had many portions of it written by Belzer’s son. The head was once again in the trumpet and sax, but this time around, Belzer was playing on a soprano saxophone. The drums were heavier with much more bass. Right before the solo, which once again showcased Belzer, Williams and Noonan, there was some “organized chaos” leading up to the solos.

The next tune was written by Lagana and entitled “A Man and His Cane,” featuring just the vibes and guitar. The tune was heavenly and soft, as if one were floating on a cloud. The melody and chords switched between the guitar and vibes. Not the most common combination, but these instruments accompanied each other well.

“Milestones” was the next song on the roster for the night, and to the disappointment of some, it was the John Lewis version, not the Miles Davis tune from the album containing the same name.

Afterwards, there was song written by Belzer for one of his sons when he was younger. The vibes took a seat on this tune, and the song followed a similar formula to the others, with a little guitar solo before the trumpet, and alto sax solo (in which Belzer went awesomely nuts, playing in a similar fashion to saxophonist Ernie Watts).

To close the evening, the final piece was a Joe Henderson piece. The head was once again in the trumpets, followed by a guitar solo, tenor sax solo, vibes solo and a somewhat conservative drum solo.

Although the concert was a great way to enjoy a rather quiet Friday night, it was hard to avoid feeling that the musicians held back a bit. While the songs were pleasant, they seemed predictable, and there was a lack of variety in the tunes played, as if they were playing what people expected to hear, rather than what they wanted to play.

Mark Gabriana, a freshman biology major, felt the concert was, “very typical jazz music that you hear people play on YouTube, nothing too extraordinary, enough to spark a jazz interest in the audience.”

While some students may have found the concert rather bland, there were others who really enjoyed it. Matthew Williams, a freshman psychology major, found the concert to be entertaining and a good showcase of the talent in UMBC’s music department. “I really liked the use of the vibraphone and I thought it accompanied the sax and trumpet really well. It was much more up there which you don’t see a lot in jazz.”

It would have been nice to have some fusion, bebop, blues and funk tunes in the mix to make for some greater variety in style. A Kamasi Washington, Christian Scott or Roy Hargrove Factor inspired tune would also have been a great addition. Nevertheless, the concert was enjoyable, and definitely something to check out to expose yourself to the world that is jazz music.