JSU Jazz explores a new frontier

Jacksonville State University Jazz is back this semester, presenting the campus with a new way of experiencing its music.

Last year, Jazz I was given the opportunity to record an album comprised of their very best repertoire, appropriately named “Everything in Its Right Place” at Bates Brothers Studio in Hueytown.

“It’s a very nice state-of-the-art facility, and the owners are super professional and really know what they’re doing,” says tenor saxophone player Jarrett Irish of the studio.

The musicians involved had a good idea of the opportunity provided to them, never taking their experience for granted and returning with unique takes on their personal benefits from their time in the studio.

“I think it’s important to have recording experience because whether you’re going to be a performer or an educator, you’re going to want to track your progress at some point in your career,” says Irish. “It’s better to do that and have that experience earlier on so when it’s your band or your school, you know what to expect going into it. Plus, it’s such a great way to grow as a musician.”

The members of Jazz I are pretty well acquainted with live performances, but according to some of the students, the experience in the studio was a little different.

“When you play a live show, you only have that one chance to play the chart to perfection,” says trumpet player, Mark Knauss. “In the recording studio, we spent hours just recording one or two songs, doing multiple takes on them just to make sure it was the best quality we could play. We still had that performance mindset when we recorded, keeping us as efficient as possible in the studio.”

The students had no issue holding themselves accountable for the task given to them, and though they were there to work, they still managed to enjoy themselves.

“Concerning the difficulty of music Jazz I plays, we want to compete with other top jazz ensembles in the country,” says Knauss. “My favorite tune we played was “Extra Credit.” It’s one of the harder tunes we’ve played, and it was great to see it come together into something that was put in our album.”

The students were equally impressed with their instructors’ contribution to their body of work. “Another one of my favorites is the Faculty Trio’s rendition of “Sweet Home Alabama,” adds Knauss. “We’re incredibly lucky to have some of the best musicians in the world teaching at JSU.”

As with any other musical endeavor, the students put an incredible amount of work into their album. “We knew about the recording since the beginning of that semester when Dr. Nevala passed out the music. So from the start, we knew what we were working for,” says bassist Nick Staff. “I think we put a little more effort in the charts because each and every note was going to be recorded and it had to be perfect. Everyone had an individual mic, so their part was recorded independently. It was pretty nerve-racking for a while.”

Dr. Andy Nevala provided several reasons for recording the album. “The main purpose was to give the students an opportunity to experience the recording studio environment,” explains Nevala. “The students were in an environment of high pressure, and there’s nowhere to hide. A second reason is to have something that’s representative of who we are and what we do as JSU Jazz.”

Nevala doesn’t hesitate to commend his students and colleagues on their work ethic as he continues to promote the jazz program, as well as the university, to the community and beyond. “For recruiting, no other jazz program in the state has a recording out that sounds as good as ours,” says Nevala. “As we get these [recordings] in the hands of people throughout the southeast, the reputation of JSU will grow in a positive way.”

The instructors and students expect one another to go above and beyond to further the cause of music, as often exhibited by Dr. Nevala. “Recording and releasing a CD is no easy task; it requires a monumental effort from the students and faculty involved. I spent many days driving to the studio to edit and mix,” explains Nevala. “You have to have a band good enough to record. You have to have the right songs rehearsed the right way. All in all, it was a lot of work.”

In the end, the students and their instructors were very proud of the finished product.
“It’s very satisfying knowing that my name is now in the history books for the professional development of our Jazz department,” says tenor saxophone player Jessica Creel.

Through hard work, musical imagination, and some of the most admirable accountability, the members of the JSU Jazz program have truly outdone themselves, and concerning its future, the possibilities are endless.

The album will be released at the March 5th Jazz Festival for a $10 donation.

For more information on JSU Jazz performance, visit jsujazz.webs.com. Merchandise featuring the music department and emsembles is available at all performances for a recommended donation.

Patrice Green
Staff Writer

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