Jacobs School of Music master’s student and award-nominated jazz guitarist Matt MacDougall led the debut concert of the IU All-Campus Jazz Ensemble at Rachael’s Café Monday night.
The performance featured pieces composed or arranged by Frank Mantooth, Bill Holman, Rob McConnell and Count Basie, among others.
Nearly all of the performers were students not majoring in music who joined the ensemble out of the desire to play in a big-band setting.
“It’s eclectic,” said Neil Hicks, the ensemble’s bassist. “A good group effort.”
Despite having been formally trained in music from a young age, MacDougall, who formed the 17-person ensemble with Tom Walsh, did not discover his inclinations towards jazz and classical until he began playing guitar at the age of 13.
To date, the musician has performed at the Halifax Jazz Festival, the Ottawa Jazz Festival and the Galaxy Rising Stars Youth Summit Group, in addition to performances alongside musicians such as Jerry Bergonzi, John Abercrombie, Tim Hagans, John Surman and Mike Murley.
MacDougall currently serves as an associate instructor in the Jacobs School of Music’s jazz department, but his experiences are not strictly limited to teaching and live performances.
In September 2012, he released the album “Familiar Faces,” a collection of eight tracks that crosses multiple genres and fluctuates between loose, hip-hop beats and a firm bebop sound.
The album was released on Armored Records, a record company devoted to promoting the work of up-and-coming musicians.
“I got some mileage out of it,” he said. “All the things that built my foundation manifested themselves in that album.”
“Familiar Faces” was nominated for the 2012 East Coast Music Award for Jazz Recording of the Year.
Following the release of the album, MacDougall was able to perform at several highly renowned venues including the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage with Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead 2013 and at the 56th Annual Montery Next Generation Jazz Festival, an event that draws hundreds of artists, from high school students to icons like Herbie Hancock and The Roots.
“I was very humbled by these experiences and felt very welcomed into the jazz community,” he said in a statement on a Kickstarter page.
As of February, the guitarist has been working on his sophomore album, “Boy Goes to City,” which he said will feature a hard-driving groove laced with the influences of rock and alternative hip-hop, all within an improvisational or jazz context.
Other members of the album ensemble include the Grammy award-winning saxophonist Jeff Coffin, saxophonist Adam Carillo, pianist Alex Wignall, bassist Roy Vogt, drummer Arianna Fanning and Grammy-nominated sound engineer Denny Jiosa.
Although MacDougall’s own compositions featured stylistic influence from jazz fusion and alternative genres, Monday night’s concert was rooted in the big band artists of both early and contemporary, 20th-century composers, such as Count Basie, Frank Mantooth, Bill Holman and Burt Bacharach.
The set-list featured such famous tracks as the bossa nova tune, “Black Orpheus,” the traditional, brass-heavy “After You’ve Gone” and the jazz staple, “Watermelon Man.”
“We range from 1930s through 1940s big band sound, pushing towards a more modern big band sound,” MacDougall said.
With crowds trickling in throughout the night, the venue was packed with an enthusiastic audience.
Even when tables and chairs became crowded, people remained standing and, occasionally, swaying.
“I don’t know anything about music, but I was into it,” audience member Shalu
Mittal said at the show.
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