Carleton University Jazz Ensemble
Kailash Mital Theatre, Carleton University
Thursday, April 7, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Vocalists Alex Harea and Mackenzie di Millo sang di Millo's lyrics to Herbir Hancock's 'Maiden Voyage' at the Carleton University Jazz Ensemble concert April 7. ©Brett Delmage, 2016
Vocalists Alex Harea and Mackenzie di Millo sang di Millo's lyrics to Herbir Hancock's 'Maiden Voyage' at the Carleton University Jazz Ensemble concert April 7. ©Brett Delmage, 2016

It was an evening of tight ensemble playing with a touch of showbiz sparkle, as the Carleton University Jazz Ensemble presented its year-end concert Thursday.

The material: mostly jazz classics from the 60s and 70s, particularly by Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and Cannonball and Nat Adderley. The style: polished and with considerable verve, with smooth entrances and introductions. The men generally wore suits and the women dresses, and (as was pointed out from the stage), trombonist Eric Cathcart even wore a trombone-themed tie.

The evening opened with the rhythm section of the Studio B Band vigorously pumping out the relentless beat of Hancock's “Cantaloupe Island”, and the horn section and vocalist making a grand entrance a few bars later. In the 70-minute show, there were two bands (Studio B and Studio A), each playing five songs.

Both bands included several vocalists, some doubling on other instruments. Particularly notable was the 7-piece Studio B band's rendition of Cannonball Adderley's “Sack o’ woe”, with Lucia Iacovitti-Villeneuve and Kelsey Hayes both brightly scatting, together and separately. That band closed with Corea's “Armando’s Rhumba”, giving it a brassy intro and strong Latin beat, followed by wordless vocals, and with alternating sparkling piano and horn fanfares closing it out.

The 10-piece Studio A band included several more modern and less common pieces as well. On “Bad Influence” by Jeff and Don Breithaupt, vocalist Alex Harea captured the gritty feel of the piece, well-supported by bluesy guitar solos by Matt Devost. Pianist Cynthia Tauro contributed one of her own compositions, a fine Latin number with strong horn arrangements complementing the sparkling piano. Unfortunately, while her vocals sounded good, the actual words weren't as clearly amplified as they should have been over the instruments.

“Maiden Voyage” by Herbie Hancock is a well-known number, but for this show, vocalist Mackenzie di Millo enhanced its effect by writing her own words to the instrumental. She and Harea performed a duet to the music, scatting as well, and Jacob Clarke on double bass and Tauro on piano added expressive solos.

The evening closed with a perennial jazz favourite, Nat Adderley's “Work Song”. It began with a growling bowed and then pizzicato bass solo by Clarke, and developed into an extended collaboration, with all the musicians contributing to the full, upbeat sound. It's a piece normally sung by a man, but di Millo sang it assuredly immersing herself in the rhythm and meaning of the lyrics.

Every year, student ensembles change, and as jazz ensemble director Mark Ferguson noted, many of the students performing at this concert will be graduating this spring. You will be able to hear some of those in the next few weeks, as the students hold graduation recitals at Carleton, starting April 18 and going into the first week of May.

    – Alayne McGregor

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance