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John Raymond Jazz Ensemble performs second concert of semester


Robert Stevens performs a solo on his tenor saxophone Oct. 21 at the Musical Arts Center. Stevens performed in John Raymond’s Jazz Ensemble. Claire Livingston

The reflections from the stage, reminiscent of a mirrorball, bounced among the rows of seating in sporadic movements. The lights came from the direction of the six-piece brass section of the John Raymond Jazz Ensemble.

The ensemble, directed by John Raymond, performed its fall concert at 8 p.m. Oct. 21 in the Musical Arts Center. Raymond, who is the assistant professor of music in jazz studies at the Jacobs School of Music, described the evening’s repertoire as roughly based on jazz in the 1990s. 

The instrumentation was composed of trumpet, alto and tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, double bass, piano, drums and guitar. Each musician on stage was featured in at least one of the many solos from throughout the night. Much of the solos were improvisational, and none of the musicians played from sheet music.

Raymond led the ensemble with multiple methods. At times, the group would follow along with the rhythm of his clapping. In other scenarios, Raymond would cue different sections or step back from the stage altogether, allowing the ensemble to direct themselves.

A handful of the pieces performed were specially arranged for the jazz ensemble by musicians on stage. The ensemble played many selections from composers such as Michael Brecker, a Grammy award-winner who studied saxophone at IU for a year, and Roy Hargrove, who passed away last year. Raymond described Hargrove as a pioneer in the jazz community.

“His presence is very sorely missed,” Raymond said. “But his spirit lives on. He embodies so much of the musical education that takes place right here on the bandstand.” Raymond gestured to the musicians behind him. 

Throughout the performance, one soloist followed after the next in a steady fashion, each taking a deep breath before beginning. The audience offered their applause in waves.

The ensemble’s next performance will be at 8 p.m. Feb. 17 in the MAC.

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