University faculty members perform at a live jazz music concert in the Minksy Recital Hall, University of Maine on Sept. 8, 2017. Photo by Ian Ligget, staff.

On Friday, Sept. 8, the University of Maine School of Performing Arts (SPA) held its third annual Faculty Jazz Concert at the Minsky Recital Hall. The evening was filled with jazz classics as well as original compositions.

The band was comprised of faculty members of the UMaine SPA, with Mark Tipton on trumpet, David Wells on saxophone, Dan Barrett on trombone, Colin Graebert on piano, David Clarke on guitar, Bob Roman on electric bass, Wells Gordon on upright bass and Bobby Duron on drums.

More than 80 people attended the concert, tapping their feet to the rhythm of the beat. There’s something truly magical about jazz that instantly transports you to a big city. If you close your eyes, you could easily imagine yourself walking through the streets of Chicago in the 1950’s.

The faculty performed a total of 10 pieces. The first piece, titled “Trip it,” started off the concert with a grand, bigband style. This piece, in addition to “Boptitude” and “Despacio,” was composed by Clarke. Translated from Spanish, “despacio” is an adverb for “slowly.” Contrary to its meaning, this up-tempo piece had the audience on the edge of their seats. The tune set off a fast feeling that resembled a speedy race. The drum solo by Duron, an accounting professor at Husson University, was exceptional and full of character. “Despacio” finished with an abrupt, unexpected ending that brought the audience back to reality.

Another faculty piece titled “Thoughts for Houston” was composed by Tipton. “I wrote it with the concert in mind, with everything that’s going on in Houston,” Tipton said.
The piece had a crescendo moment where all the instruments, especially brass (trumpet, saxophone and trombone) were competing with each others’ sounds, resembling the despair of a hurricane.

The concert concluded with Graebert singing eden ahbez’s “Nature Boy.” Graebert’s singing followed by Clarke’s guitar solo touched all the right strings of those in the audience.

“We had one rehearsal right before the show, but if you’ve practiced and done it [jazz] enough, then it’s just like speaking,” Wells Gordon said. “The great thing about jazz is you can go anywhere in the world, and if you know the language, you can play with anyone. It’s a very inclusive, not an exclusive, art form.”

With increased enrollment, the student interest for jazz is expanding. UMaine SPA recently added a new jazz studies major.

“This fall we’ve added a second big band which Mark Tipton is directing, so now we have two jazz bands,” Barrett said.

He started the faculty jazz concert series with the hope of setting an example for his students.

“It’s very encouraging and inspiring for students to see their faculty perform,” Andrea Mahoney said. Her son takes bass lessons from Gordon. “It was a great event, it sounded like I was listening to the old style jazz.”

Most UMaine SPA shows are free for students with their MaineCard. For a full schedule of events, please visit umaine.edu/SPA.