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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Criticism: Merry, bright sounds of big band at Rudder Theatre

Photo by Photo by Michaela Rush

Texas A&M’s student jazz ensemble performed their final concert of the semester on Sunday, Nov. 21 with a holiday-themed music selection. 

It’s finals season. You’re prepping for that last assessment of each course. However, imagine your final has an audience. And it’s live streamed. And you have a solo. For a math class, this may be a nightmare, but for students in the Music Activities jazz ensembles, the final concert was a perfect way to end the semester. 

The ensembles, divided into ensemble 501 and ensemble 502, performed Sunday, Nov. 21 at Rudder Theatre. Led by director of jazz bands Chris Hollar, who also serves as the director of facilities and percussion coordinator for Music Activities, the two 30-minute sets were a great survey of the diverse styles of jazz.

Ensemble 502 started out bold and brassy, performing “Barnburner” by Les Hooper. In strong opposition to the recent Wind Serenade at the same venue, jazz concerts invite attendees to respond to each piece by whooping and clapping following each of the solos. Biochemistry sophomore Jett Bowlin aimed high with his alto saxophone solo, reaching screaming highs and garnering high praise from the audience. 

Following its grand start, 502 cooled off with “Theme and Variations” by Bill Homan. Though this piece was slower and quieter, the energy remained high, with an infectious rhythm with which it was impossible not to drum along. Each of the five pieces in the set showed off different strengths of the group, ending with “Deck the Halls with Jingle Bells” by Rich Derosa. 

While some audience members may have an embargo on Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, this arrangement seemed like a fitting last meeting of the band. The additions of solos by environmental design sophomore Ethan Campbell, 502’s pianist, and biology sophomore GianReo Mire on baritone saxophone were certainly a high note. Mire’s baritone solo left audiences wanting more from the deep woodwind voice and patiently waiting for a full baritone saxophone Christmas album.  

For the latter half of the concert, jazz 501 took the stage with another high energy piece, “Too Much of a Good Think” by Andrew Neu, showing off the strength of the rhythm section. Philosophy junior Nicolas Monticello on drum kit led the ensemble with a strong start, and chemical engineering junior Houston Martinez, guitarist, made the student jazz concert feel more like a classic rock band on world tour, evident by the response of the audience. 

To continue the concert, audiences were greeted with the smooth sounds of “I Thought About You” by Jimmy Van Huesen and Johnny Mercer, enriched by the solo of alto saxophone from biomedical sciences sophomore Trei Parker. Contrasted by the Spanish influence of “Tico Tico” by Zequinha Abreu, and the sappy romance of “At Long Last, Love” by Cole Porter, 501’s set showed off the great range of the more senior ensemble, intentionally featuring a variety of solo sounds. 

In similar fashion as 502, 501 ended its concert with Count Basie’s arrangement of “Jingle Bells” by Sammy Nestico. Martinez was able to once again showcase his talent through a classic holiday jazz arrangement, bringing the sounds of a New York City Christmas to College Station.  

The sets of both 501 and 502 are best summed up in the words of Chris Hollar himself — “I have a pretty good taste in music, if you don’t mind me saying.” 

No, Mr. Hollar. We don’t mind you saying that.

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