It can tantalize you. It can tease you. It can be sensual at one moment and energetic the next. It is, at the same time, both orderly and chaotic. It’s jazz.
Today at 7 p.m. in Schoenberg Hall, the UCLA jazz studies program will put on a concert featuring UCLA’s jazz combos, which in this case, are small jazz groups made up of no more than six musicians each. The performance is the first of a two-part concert series that occurs every quarter, with one night featuring combos and the other featuring big bands. The event is free for all UCLA students.
The combos playing in tonight’s concert are official UCLA performance ensembles, which means that they are official music groups within the ethnomusicology department. According to Charley Harrison, the director of one of the combos in tonight’s performance as well as the UCLA Jazz Orchestra, the combos are predominately made up of undergraduate jazz studies students.
“It is required for jazz majors to participate in the combos as part of the curriculum,” Harrison said.
The groups will be performing many jazz pieces from the 1950s and 1960s, with some older pieces and some contemporary pieces sprinkled in. Several original student compositions will also be performed at the concert, Harrison said.
This variety of music will result in a multifaceted concert experience. Kenny Burrell, professor of music and ethnomusicology, as well as director of the UCLA jazz studies program, said the concert will feature a variety of different musical moods.
“The combos are not dedicated to any one sound or style,” Burrell said.
Burrell is directing three combos in the concert, including the Gluck Combo, a six-member community outreach combo sponsored by the Gluck family. The members of the combo play at various places off campus, from hospitals to grade schools.
The concert will also feature one vocal jazz combo, directed by Michele Weir, a professor of jazz within the ethnomusicology department. Members of the combo will perform solo vocal jazz pieces, accompanied by piano, bass and drums.
“We are doing pretty “˜straight- ahead’ songs. They’re part of a repertoire called “˜jazz standards’ (a genre of jazz which includes pieces composed by musicians such as George Gershwin),” Weir said.
The seven jazz combos performing tonight will play in a setting that resembles a jazz festival. According to Burrell, each group will have approximately 20 minutes to play a set of jazz pieces, though this time limit is more of a guideline than a rigidly enforced rule.
Burrell said that he hopes this concert will attract a larger audience for jazz performance at UCLA.
“We can always use more of an audience for jazz. … I hope that those (students) who do come will really enjoy it, so they can tell their friends,” Burrell said.
According to Harrison, the concert is a great opportunity for students to learn about the makeup of jazz itself.
“(Students) can get a little bit of an understanding of how jazz performance comes together … (and) a little appreciation for jazz improvisation,” he said.
Weir said that she hopes the performance awakens a passion for jazz in students who attend.
“I really hope (students) get turned on and inspired about jazz … (and) go seek out some CDs or potentially join one of the classes,” Weir said.