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The UTSA’s Jazz Ensemble is a group of twenty student musicians under the guidance of Dr. Utah Hamrick. This talented bunch gave a concert on Thursday, Feb. 19 at the UTSA Recital Hall. With instruments including saxophones, trumpets and electric guitar, it was a memorable experience.

The ensemble played six different pieces: “Corner Pocket,” “Cajun Cookin’,” “Blues off the Wall,” “Caravan,” “Moanin’” and “Backrow Politics.” Each piece encompassed a different style of jazz that made for an entertaining concert.

The journey began as Dr. Hamrick walked on stage motioning to Trevin Roming on piano. His fingers flew across the keys with a burst of complex melody filling the auditorium instantly starting “Corner Pocket” with a bang. Dr. Hamrick said that most people comment on how fun it is to watch this pianist play.

As with many jazz bands, individual players got a moment to shine as they made their way to the microphone and delivered a foot-tappin’ addition to the music. Usually, the soloist creates a complex melody while the rest of the ensemble keeps the beat in the background. However, “Moanin’” is set apart by baritone saxophonist Josh Ysaguirre’s rich, soul-filled solo unaccompanied by the jazz band. Trombonist Ruben Orduño delivered a powerful solo following the baritone saxophone. After some playing, the rest of the group joined in and filled the hall with a cacophony of sounds that flowed nicely.

This ensemble remembered the roots of jazz and played a piece called “Cajun Cookin;” Dr. Hamrick described this song as a “Cajun funky tune.” The rhythm section stood out as they introduced a complex beat. Cristina Hinojosa delivered a particularly captivating drum solo toward the end of the song. Tabitha Horn (trumpet) also captivated the audience with her great solo which included the use of a mute to create a buzzing “wah-wah” sound. It was nice to see the jazz band remembering how jazz started out on the streets of New Orleans.

If the concert started with a bang, it needed to go out with one. The UTSA Jazz Ensemble definitely accomplished this with their final piece, “Backrow Politics.” This trumpet feature employs the gospel roots of jazz. Backed up by the rest of the band, the trumpeters lined up at the front of the stage. There is a bit of call and response, a major theme of early gospel-type jazz, within this song. The trumpets blared their part as a call and then the rhythm section, particularly the piano, responded with a similar melody.

Filled with screeches, trills and growls, the trumpets, completely diving into the music, kept the audience’s fingers tapping. Each trumpet player played about a 20-second improvisation one after the other as the song neared its end. After each musician played, the line started over again but with quicker 5-second solos the second time around. The rest of the band jumped back in and ended the night with pride, receiving a standing ovation from the audience.

Trevin shared that he “Just (likes) playing. It doesn’t matter who you play with. It is just about the experience.”

Be sure to check out the next jazz concert on Thursday, April 23. Take a break before finals to enjoy some music.

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