Sunday, December 6, 2009

¡MacJazz!

Hello! My name is Jack and I'm here today to tell you about MacJazz because it's something I do that is fun and interesting (to some people). Below: the view from the captain's chair.
MacJazz is Macalester's jazz big band, and there are, I don't know, maybe twenty of us? We rehearse twice a week and have played a few times this semester, both on-campus and off. Considering the small size of the student body it has to pull from, MacJazz is really awesome--seriously. We can burn rubber and turn on a dime. We play old swing tunes, latin jazz, blues and funk and probably some genres that haven't yet been invented. Our director, Joan Griffith, is a composer and multi-instrumentalist who also teaches at St. Thomas and St. Kate's, a couple of local universities. If you play a brass/wind/rhythm section instrument and have any interest in jazz or improvisation, it goes without saying that you should check in with MacJazz if you come to Macalester. It's a talented group but by no means high-pressured, and you don't need to take solos--plenty of people do as it is.

A couple of weeks ago we played at a gathering of local jazz bands from Hamline University, UST and Concordia U, and a got a chance to travel outside of the Janet Wallace Fine Arts complex we call home and observe our comrades at nearby schools as they ran through some of their repertoires. There was a "guest of honor" of sorts, a local sax man/wizard named Steve Clarke. He apparently commented on our performances into a microphone on the table at which he was sitting, which was located in the middle of the audience about where a soundboard would be placed at a concert. It was kind of like performing for the King of Hamline as he enjoyed the entertainment of some local minstrels. He seemed to like our performance, because he exclaimed "yeah!" at the end of each of our three songs, the kind of "yeah!" that would ordinarily be accompanied by a fist pump or a high-five. Maybe it was, I didn't see.All in all it was good way to hear how we compare to other student bands in the area, and we got a chance to sit in the audience and watch some sublime performances, especially by the UST band #1 and the combined honor band with Steve Clarke on sax. He can finger a sax like a man possessed, and also looks good in a hat.

If adventures such as this one suit your fancy, or you have questions about jazz at Macalester, feel free to send me an e-mail.