Ever wondered what a septet would sound like if they played 12 different instruments or instrument styles in one song? Well, when it comes to Michael Sarian and The Chabones, it turns out that it sounds extremely good. Michael Sarian and The Chabones (which is Argentinian slang for “dudes”) is a group of seven jazz instrumentalists lead by Michael Sarian, a Muhlenberg alum from the class of ’08. Celebrating his ten-year anniversary of graduation and five-year anniversary of playing his first concert back here at Muhlenberg, Sarian rocked into the night for current and past students alike during Alumni weekend. With his band of six other talented and versatile musicians, Sarian demonstrated what the best jam session to ever naturally occur would be like when performed for a full audience.
One of the most noticeable aspects of the performance, and an important quality for a jazz musician to really have, was the personality Michael Sarian and The Chabones put into every part of the concert. Periodically throughout the performance, while someone else was doing a solo or they just weren’t on for a section of the song, the four brass instrument players, including Sarian on the trumpet, would just take a brief walk off stage. The musicians smoothly switched from playing along with their musicians to resting and listening to the melodies surrounding them. This was probably the most obvious indication of the style or unique statement that Michael Sarian and The Chabones have for themselves and their music.
Jazz music itself is based in ideals of improvisation and self-expression, which are classily incorporated into jazz songs in the form of blank stanzas that are meant for some member of the band to do an impromptu solo before returning to the written music.
In essence, this makes jazz music more of a perpetual state of a band warming up and playing what sounds good to them than a meticulously pre-planned performance.
From the name of the band to the way they handle themselves on stage to the very music they play, Michael Sarian and The Chabones performed freeing, personally pleasing music that just naturally occurs when every member of their septet is perfectly in-sync with one another. The songs that the band writes and performs tell a story by using the change of tones throughout the course of their music involving sections that consist of an escalating cacophony of each instrument playing its own solo performance simultaneously before jumping back into perfectly balanced synergetic unified sound.
Another major draw to their performance was the excessive range of the members of the band in terms of instruments and styles even within each song. The different instruments that were used throughout the performance consisted of the pianist doing either keyboard or grand piano, the bass guitar player doing what he does best, the drummer changing between using regular drumsticks, swizzels, jazz brushes and even his hands, two of the three supporting brass players switching between saxophone and clarinet with one of them even pulling out a flute as well, the last of the supporting brass staying on the trombone and Sarian making full use of his trumpet and its mute. On its own, playing multiple instruments throughout a full concert isn’t anything that special, but when a drummer has to change out his drum sticks one at a time while still keeping the rhythm going or when a brass player has to crouch down by his instrument rack so he can switch out his instrument without missing the next beat, you know something special is going on.
You can check out Michael Sarian and The Chabones’ latest album that dropped last month, “León,” as well as Michael Sarian and The Big Chabones, a 16 person big band alternative group, online and experience the story yourself.