Jazz Ensemble energizes campus

The NIU Jazz Ensemble, including (from right) Christopher Johnson on tenor saxophone and Jordan Bennett on baritone saxophone, performs its set before a crowd at Tuesday's concert inside Boutell Memorial Concert Hall.

DeKALB — The NIU Jazz Ensemble performed 8 p.m. Tuesday inside Boutell Memorial Concert Hall in the Music Building. 

The concert was directed by Rodrigo Villanueva-Conroy, professor of jazz studies. Villanueva-Conroy walked on stage and turned his back to the audience; he and the band sat in silence and, with the raise of a hand, the show began. 

The first song of the night was “Footprints” by Wayne Shorter. The melody was as smooth as can be, and the numerous saxophones that played along with the piano were beautiful. 

The song had varying tempos, from slow to fast, and Morgan Turner, who played alto saxophone, showed good control over her instrument. 

The band moved on to “Jones” by Jerry Bergonzi. For this piece, Frank McKearn, who is a part of the band, was introduced by Villanueva-Conroy. 

McKearn played an interesting device called an electronic wind instrument that was gripping enough to be brought in as a surprise. 

McKearn played the instrument like a flute. The instrument gave off a unique energy. 

It was high-pitched but its tone had a mysterious nature that enticed listeners.

The song ended with every instrument in sync with the sax, the drums and the piano cutting off all at once. 

The third song on the list was called “Times Lie” by Chick Corea. This song brought most soothing and peaceful sounds of the night. 

The saxophones started the piece off, and it was heartwarming to hear them all being played so well simultaneously. 

Later on, Tony Broniec, playing the drums, entered the background while a solo on the sax was being played by Christopher Johnson. 

The band members had smiles on their faces, appreciating their own work as they played. 

Everyone in the audience brought their attention to the piano all of a sudden, even the band. 

Isaiah Jones Jr. played a wonderful solo that had everyone shaking their heads with how amazing he was at the improvisation.

The band played a few more songs throughout the night, but none stood out as much as the last piece, “The Red Sea” by Bob Mintzer. 

The song was high-spirited and exciting. McKearn on the electronic wind instrument and Scott Anderson, who played  the electric guitar, had a back and forth with each other. 

Both the electronic wind instrument and the electric guitar sounded very together, and the sound was reminiscent of a rock ’n roll concert mixed in with jazz. 

The crowd erupted in loud applause after the band finished, and a member of the audience even yelled out “Encore” to top off the night. While there was no encore, the music played was more than enough to satisfy those in attendence. 

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