Entertaining. That’s really the only way to describe the Jazz Big Band concert on Friday night — something trombonist Emily Robinson ‘19 can attest to. “This past semester was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in an ensemble and I’ve been playing in band for probably ten years.”
“The band is better than it’s ever been. We’ve had some phenomenal players come through the band in my four years here, many of whom have either left Muhlenberg or graduated,” said saxophonist Johnny Tamburro ‘18, echoing Robinson. “However, this year we ended up with a perfect storm of leadership, with our director Tony Gairo expecting a lot from us. Each section leader really took their section to task and bringing the whole ensemble to a higher level of performance.”
Always a highlight of every semester, whispers from the band members began spreading early on this year about how this performance would be something special. The hype did not disappoint.
Like any good show, it started with a theme song. What better than kicking off with the theme from Family Guy? Similarly, the concert had its comedic highlights, with Gairo and band members swapping jokes throughout the night. Gairo even commented that the audience likely had not expected to be laughing so much at a jazz concert. The jokes lasted until the very end during the final song, “Tank!,” in which Tamburro passed the bari sax he was playing down the line of his fellow musicians to Zeke Timen ‘21 as the two switched instruments a few bars into the piece causing laughs of surprise from the crowd.
The music was just as impressive as the unexpected comedy. Playing songs made famous by Count Basie and Maynard Ferguson, as well as chart toppers like “Pennies From Heaven” and “Skyfall.”
“There were a few sections that were more tenuous than others, but everything came out pretty smoothly, so I can’t say I had a favorite part; [there were] certainly parts where I took a deep breath of relief afterwards though,” said Tamburro.
“We played ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me’ by Elton John, but we played the Maynard Ferguson version,” Robinson said when asked about her favorite piece. “It was absolutely insane.” A statement in itself as Rob Hartman ‘18 hit impossibly high notes seemingly with ease, truly earning the short break brought on by intermission following the number.
A couple members came together to form a septet for “Minga (Ode to Mingus)” which was written by Muhlenberg alumnus Michael Sarian and a trio with Bailey Fulginiti ‘18 on vocals. While not featured on every song, Fulginiti did wow the crowd with her voice, singing Nat King Cole and Adele with ease.
“The concert went really well. I had many moments that I wish were tighter on my part, however I think that feeling is mostly coming from how much we’ve improved over the last semester or two,” Tamburro said. “Our level of playing has really shot up, and everyone is pushing themselves to play the best they can.”
Robinson mentioned that a part of what made this semester for her was definitely the camaraderie felt between the whole band and how that translated into their playing.
“We sounded damn good this semester, that’s for sure,” Tamburro said. Now that’s something the audience would definitely agree with.