Jazz Ensembles to present concert

West Virginia Wesleyan College’s jazz ensembles will present their annual fall concert at 8 p.m. Friday in the Virginia Thomas Law Center for Performing Arts on the Buckhannon campus.

The event is free and open to the public.

Dr. James Moore, director of jazz ensembles and associate professor of music, said the concert again features a new ensemble.

“This year we started a New Orleans style brass band in the mold of groups like ‘The Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Rebirth Brass Band.'” He said, “This group has been lots of fun. We have learned the repertoire by ear, trying to avoid using written music wherever possible.”

Moore said improvisation is at the heart of the group’s experience.

“We have many students on campus who are immersed in modern jazz improvisation, particularly bebop. This ensemble has helped those students to focus on a more traditional, rhythmically charged style of jazz improvisation.” Moore said the challenge lies in creating interesting solos using rhythm rather than complex songs.

“Just because the melodies are simple does not make this easier. If anything, it is a greater challenge.”

The brass band will perform New Orleans standards and other selections in the style of modern New Orleans jazz.

“As far as I know,” Moore said,” we are the only college or university in West Virginia that has such an ensemble.”

The West Virginia Wesleyan Big Band will follow the brass band, presenting a program of music from the Count Basie era. This group, the jazz area’s premiere ensemble, often presents theme concerts as the culminating experience of a semester studying the music of a particular composer or arranger.

“We really value the big band experience at Wesleyan,” says Moore. “The skills that the students develop in this kind of ensemble are very important for anyone who wants to pursue a career in jazz or commercial music performance at the professional level.”

Of equal importance, according to Moore, is the fact that the big band represents a uniquely American approach to ensemble playing.

“The big band really is America’s version of the symphonic ensemble. In other words, the big band is our orchestra,” says Moore.

“I think the music of Count Basie and those arrangers who worked for him is an indelible part of American music that students need to study. Jazz music really is unique in that it reflects the values of the African American experience while at the same time serving as high art that is uniquely American.”

Various small groups of students will round out the concert, performing original arrangements and compositions under the tutelage of Curtis Johnson and Jeff Bush, both adjunct lecturers of music and jazz.

Wesleyan’s music department is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music, the only private college in West Virginia to hold the distinction.

More information is available from Moore at moore-j@wvwc.edu.