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The Metro State of Jazz

Metro Jazz at King Center

On Tuesday, Oct. 23, Metro State hosted its first round of student Jazz Combo performances at the Auraria Campus’ own King Center Concert Hall. Featuring two ensembles directed by Ron Miles and Shane Endsley, the event provided a memorable showcase of Metro students’ refined performance abilities.

The performances throughout the night illustrated the school’s far more classical approach to jazz studies than CU Denver’s. A great amount of the tunes played were jazz standards from classic jazz composers, like Cole Porter, with a few modern pieces thrown in for good measure. Coupled with plenty of horn players and conventional rhythm sections in both groups, Metro’s proficiency at developing traditionally structured jazz instrumentalists shines through. 

Ron Miles’ group headed the show with a fairly traditional jazz orchestration. This group contained the typical piano, guitar, bass, and drum as the rhythm section, all supporting a vocalist, trombonist, and tenor saxophonist. 

Metro students showed off their talents at the king center. Photo credit: Ayden Adair

While both groups tended to stick to the traditional repertoire, this ensemble in particular delivered the smooth, cool sound associated with the classical jazz compositions. That’s not to say there weren’t a few exciting curveballs thrown into the mix as well, particularly featuring a stripped-down country ballad, complete with standup bass, acoustic steel-stringed guitar, and brushed snare. 

There were several standout solo performances among this group as well. Each soloist was democratically granted at least two opportunities to lay down some stimulating musical elaborations. In particular, the horn section worked well at this, as they were able to rise above the group dynamically, whereas they laid back for the most part in sections featuring the whole ensemble.

There were a few instances in which very little on-stage communication occurred between ensemble members, and some sections of the music came across with poor dynamics for some individual solos and somewhat ambiguous chord changes and structures. Much of these shortcomings may also be chalked up to it being the first performance and did not detract significantly from the quality of the performance. 

Shane Endsley’s ensemble quickly followed, showcasing an entirely different cast of players and tunes. While still having a conventional rhythm section, they included tenor and alto sax, flute, and trumpet as the horn section. Generally, each performer displayed a high level of instrumental proficiency in multiple cases on more than one instrument.

This group was also significantly more experimental than the group preceding them, adding in notably more non-conventional instrumentation. In addition to the aforementioned flute, there was also utilized synth bass and an impressive cymbal stack consisting of a crash cymbal, splash, tambourine, and sizzler, making for an incredibly washy drum tone. 

While also sticking somewhat to the jazz standard repertory, Endsley’s group also included original material and interpretive, experimental pieces as well. These tunes in particular provided the space for the ensembles unique instrumental arrangement to come into full form. 

The MSU Jazz Combo Night provided an insightful experience of varied jazz material and showcased exciting performances from Metro’s finest.

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