One of the hallmarks of live music is where it can take the listener. While the melodic beauty of a classical concerto may gracefully float just above the audience, taking the audience to fantasy realms of beauty and tranquility, jazz will just as easily jump off the stage, run through the isles screaming at the top of it’s lungs, grabbing the listener by the collar and dragging them out the doors and into the yellow-lit streets from wince it came.
Live jazz is no more a visceral experience than live classical music is, but it has something that makes the experience somehow much more alive when done right, and the Conservatory Jazz Combos definitely did it right.
On Tuesday, March 5, the Conservatory hosted the “Jazz and the Conservatory” performance, a show which demonstrated talents of the UMKC Jazz Studies Program. The combos were groups ranging from four to six people each building an interesting combination of instruments, which together created incredible music.
It’s difficult to know where to look when watching a jazz combo; with the wide variety of instruments it’s jarring to see this enormous collection of movement; The drummer slamming away, the brass players swaying like tall grass in the wind, the piano player quickly scanning the keys with their fingers. It’s only when the listener at the entire whole that they see they’re all working like parts of a body, bopping to the tune that shall be played together.
It took all of only two minutes for the audience to forget they were in a concert hall. The 3:30 Combo’s late night romp “Somewhere on Troost” immediately transported the listener to a dark, smoky jazz club scene with echoing brass sections and melodic electric guitar rifts.
The concert hall became smaller, more personal, as the cool sounds drew the audience in closer and closer. Even with the individual solos being performed, the steady beat and groove of the piece kept on, grounding the sound.
One of the highlights of the evening was the 2:00 Combo’s “Starry Night”, an intense fever dream of a work employing use of a bow with the upright bass to create, low, quiet, creaking kinds of sounds as an intense electric guitar rift barreled it’s way though behind the shrieking mythological siren like trio of two saxophones and a trumpet.
It became hypnotic as the music rose to a dizzying swirl overhead, like a towering thundercloud forming before a great storm. All the while one was wondering it the drummer was going to shatter the symbols of the drum kit with the climactic crashes and exhausting solos.
Walking out after the show, one felt like they had just finished a 5k run. Hard-hitting beats crawled up through the audience’s feet and smashed at their chests as a cascade of sound rushed over the seats. It’s a miracle the building even held up under all of it.