Alexandra O’Neal, Arts & Entertainment Correspondent
On Friday, November 8, Jacksonville State University Jazz Ensembles transformed the fifth floor of Meehan Hall into a jazz club. Saxophonist Brad Walker joined the ensembles for a night of jazz and entertainment.
To begin the show, Jazz Ensemble III began with an impressive performance of “Jazz Police” by Gordon Goodwin. Jakobe Henry assisted Caleb Howard in directing the ensemble, which showcased several pieces including “Widow’s Walk” and “Corner Pocket.” The musicians were clearly enjoying the music, which the audience could tell from the way that the musicians swayed along with the melody and tapped to the beat. Several audience members nodded their heads along to the beat in an almost subconscious response, fully enveloped in the music.
Jazz Ensemble II followed, presenting “Groove Merchant” and “Angel Eyes” under the direction of Dr. Chris Probst. “A Night in Havana” featured student Cal Mason on bongos, and was a crowd favorite due to the lively syncopated rhythm and distinctive jazz runs throughout the piece.
Dr. Andrew Nevala, Director of JSU Jazz Studies, directed Jazz Ensemble I. This prestigious and award-winning ensemble performed pieces including “This Time Last Year” and “Donna Lee,” closing the show with a remarkable performance of “A Night in Tunisia.” The classic jazz piece was a perfect ending to the concert.
Professional Saxophonist Brad Walker accompanied the ensembles for several of the songs and impressed the audience with the clear tone and emotive quality of his solos.
Brad Walker is a distinguished Saxophonist with an incredible biography. He has performed on several famous television shows such as Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show, and was a featured soloist at the 2017 Grammys telecast. He also has five independent records and has collaborated with numerous artists, most notably the Nashville celebrity Sturgill Simpson. Rolling Stone and NPR have described Walker’s solo work as “soaring” and “energetic,” characteristics that shine through his performances even to those unfamiliar with the technical aspects of Jazz. The JSU Jazz Program was ecstatic and honored to welcome Brad Walker as a highly esteemed guest artist.
JSU Jazz isn’t without its own prestige. The award-winning program has continued to grow in size and talent each year and continues to provide the community with outstanding performances of contemporary and traditional jazz. JSU Jazz Ensembles have recently been selected to perform at the annual 2020 JEN (Jazz Education Network) Conference in New Orleans next semester. The program has already begun practicing repertoire and planning for the conference. In addition to showcasing the hard work and talent of JSU Jazz students, this concert was also raising funds for the upcoming New Orleans conference.
JSU Jazz has grown exponentially over the years and continues to raise the bar for the David L. Walters Music Department, producing not only technically correct music but also expressive and emotive pieces.