I imagined I was boozing in a dark corner on a slow afternoon at the Cut-n-Shoot Inn out on Route 37. Or maybe it was even a little later and I was hanging around the airport lounge in New Orleans waiting for my Friday flight home. Actually I was spending noontime in Fannin Hall last Tuesday enjoying the Richland fall faculty jazz recital.
The familiar group of Richland professors boppin’ around on stage took me back momentarily to my wasted youth. The only things missing were a warm beer, some stale pretzels, a wisp of languid smoke and the flight announcements. On stage were Professors Ron Jones, sax; Joe Lee, electric guitar; Brad Williams, piano; James Driscoll, bass; Derrick Logozzo, drums; and for one number, Melissa Logan, vocalist.
While a hundred or more toes tapped in time, the instrumentalists crouched, swayed and wove their way through six lively numbers. Amid this torpid turmoil, Logan came on stage to smilingly croon a joyous version of Gershwin’s “Summertime.” At various times all of the performers took a turn carrying a solo part and they were uniformly magnificent.
Jazz players, of course, do not read from conventional musical notation, but instead rely on “lead sheets” to help coordinate and guide their presentation. They also cue each other with spontaneous head nods or shoulder bobs when it feels like time to pass the solo to another player. From the audience’s perspective it appears like a casual musical conversation in which each instrument chimes in with an individualized improvisation on a common theme. It is an informal seminar in sound.
No matter how laid back their appearance, this particular gaggle of guys plus one gal always delivers a pleasant surprise; behind their relaxed mien lies a level of professional talent and expertise seldom found on a noontime stage.
For newcomers to Richland (or in case you didn’t already know it), there is a one-hour concert in Fannin Performance Hall at 12:30 p.m. every Tuesday that is open to everyone on campus (and to the general public). Just show up, take a seat and enjoy. No charge.