WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. (April 25, 2004) — New England’s top collegiate jazz musicians got together to learn and play at the Intercollegiate Jazz Festival at Williams College April 23-24. Brent Banulis has this report.
Wailin’ in Williamstown
Thanks to the organizational efforts of Andy Jaffe, director of jazz activities at Williams, collegiate jazz groups from throughout New England got a chance to perform on the Chapin Hall stage and to polish their skills under the tutelage of adjudicators Dave Demsey and James Williams. Both are accomplished jazz artists as well as members of the William Paterson University (N.J.) faculty.
Adjudicator James Williams talks to Andy Jaffe’s Williams College Jazz Ensemble.
Ensembles taking part in the event, with their directors, were:
- Amherst College Jazz Ensemble, Bruce Diehl
- Community College of Rhode Island Jazz Ensemble, Steve LaJoie
- Holyoke Community College Jazz Ensemble, Dave Shapiro
- Rhode Island College Concert Jazz Band, Susan Nicholson
- Schenectady Community College Jazz Ensemble, William Meckley
- Skidmore College Ghetto All-Stars
- Smith College Jazz Ensemble, Bruce Diehl
- Westfield State College Jazz Band, Alexander Pershounin
- Worcester Polytechnic Institute Stage Band and Jazz Combo, Rich Falco
- Williams Jazz Ensemble, Andy Jaffe
- Yale University Jazz Ensemble, David Brandenburg
The collegiate event was part of a weeklong celebration of jazz in Williamstown that also included performances by Jaffe, Williams, Demsey and other professional jazz artists, and the New England Jazz Alliance’s New England Jazz Hall of Fame exhibit. The finale was a concert by the dynamic duo of pianist Benny Green and guitarist Russell Malone.
James Williams, festival organizer Andy Jaffe, and Dave Demsey in Williamstown.
All of the college groups accorded themselves well, but all also benefited from the unusual format of the event. Each group gave a 30-minute performance after which Demsey and/or Williams took the stage with constructive criticisms. With the mentors wired for sound, those in the audience could listen in on the “open rehearsals” that followed. It was a rare and rewarding opportunity for all present.
“High school band directors, as well as any student considering following a music program in college, would do well to attend this festival, which is free and open to the public each year,” said NEJA board member Ed Bride, who facilitated the showing of the Hall of Fame exhibit. “In a day and a half, they would get to 'audition' the music programs of a dozen New England four-year and community colleges.”
Meanwhile, the collegiate jazz season is not over for NEJA road manager Alfred Cox and NEJA’s exhibit, which will be on display on the Southern Connecticut State University campus in New Haven from May 6-26. There will be a special reception featuring live jazz from 6-8 p.m. Saturday, May 8. For more information, call Jazz Haven at (203) 393-3002.