Jazz ensemble features student musicians

Union’s Jazz Ensemble performs a variety of jazz compositions from different time eras in their winter concert. (Anna Klug | Concordiensis )

Union’s Jazz Ensemble held their winter concert in Emerson Auditorium in the Taylor Music Center last Sunday at 2 p.m. Admission was free and open to the public.

The concert featured Hollander Convocation Music prize- winner Max Caplan ’16. Caplan is a double major in music and classics and is a composer and pianist. Caplan has also worked with the John Howard Payne Professor of Music Hilary Tann and performed as a soloist with the Union College Orchestra at the 2015 Steinmetz Symposium.

For the Jazz Ensemble Concert, Caplan performed American composer George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” on piano.

Caplan commented, “ I think that the Jazz Ensemble sounds as good this year as it has sounded in the four years I’ve been with the group. We have some great players in key positions, and the musicians from the orchestra are contributing a lot as well.

This makes it an especially good year for “Rhapsody,” because, in addition to the piano solo material, the piece contains many extended solo passages featuring a variety of instrumentalists.”

The concert was directed by Associate Professor of Music, Tim Olsen. Olsen also accompanied the ensemble on trumpet. The concert included a variety of performances, including music from different time periods.

Caplan explained, “Professor Olsen asked me about a year ago whether I would be interested in performing the piece with the Jazz Ensemble.

I was very excited to do it because it’s such a great piece and I have such fond associations with it. I first heard it (I must confess) in ‘Fantasia 2000,’ and it’s still hard for me to get those cartoons out of my head!”

In addition to featuring Caplan, many other members of the Jazz Ensemble also had a chance to show off their skills. The concert began with a light, upbeat rendition of “3-D Mambo” by Tito Puente. The big band piece featured a small solo performed by saxophonist, Nate Sears ’18.

Following “3-D Mambo” was a fast, jazzy performance of Louis Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

This catchy piece featured many solos, including members of the percussion section, led by Anat Tewari ’19 on the drum set, as well as trumpeter, Nick Meixsell ’19, tenor saxophonist, Jonathan Fields ’19, and soprano saxophone player, Kyle Miller ’18.

Miller also performed a rendition of Bruno Mars’ hit song, “Uptown Funk,” accompanied by electric guitarist, Kabir Chabra ’18 and the rest of the Jazz Ensemble. The pop funk number was entertaining and allowed Miller to show off some fancy footwork.

The concert then switched over to more moderately timed pieces, such as “Spinning Wheel” by David Thomas, which was a short and sweet jazz/rock composition.

The concert came to a beautiful close with Caplan’s performance of “Rhapsody in Blue.” Caplan was accompanied by a horn section, clarinet player, Elise Farrington ’16, and a string section along with the rest of the Jazz Ensemble. The performance was smooth, slightly sultry and vaudevillian which contrasted nicely with the opening pieces, most of which were fast paced, lively compositions. Caplan found the concert a major highlight amongst his musical experiences at Union.

After graduation, Caplan hopes to pursue a graduate degree in composition and make a career as a composer.

However, Caplan is open to a variety of possibilities and opportunities. “I am interested in a variety of mediums, including concert music, film scoring, and musical theater,” says Caplan. “ I would like to keep my options as open as possible.” Caplan will also be holding his Senior Recital this coming spring.

“It will consist of my own compositions and will feature fellow music students, as well as members of the chamber group, the Musicians of Ma’alwyck,” Caplan explains. “There will be music in both jazz and classical styles, as well as free improvisation.”



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