Florida Southern meets New Orleans

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The FSC Jazz Ensemble were not the only performers to watch last Friday night. Director Paul Butcher also showcased what he called “small group pieces” performed by FSC Faculty Jazz Ensemble and special guest Steve Masakowski.

The show, which took place in Branscomb Auditorium, opened with Aaron’s Blues, a piece that certainly set the tone for the remainder of the night. With sounds that gave an essence of New Orleans flavor, FSC Jazz Ensemble began their performance with energy and excitement.

“Gentle Rain,” performed by FSC Jazz Ensemble and Steve Masakowski, offered a smooth sound that was less blues centered when being compared to the opening number. Masakowski’s guitar added a dynamic to the performance that gave it a softer sound.

Prior to Jodi Grind, a piece performed by FSC Jazz Ensemble and Masakowski, the night’s special guest revealed how growing up in New Orleans influenced his musical talent growing up and how he felt a connection with the blues genre. Masakowski revealed a Santana-like sound throughout this particular piece, which surprisingly complimented the sounds of the Ensemble.

Just before the 10 minute intermission occurred, FSC Faculty Jazz Collective joined Masakowski for “Sugar,” a song composed by Stanley Turrentine. Before introducing what he repeatedly called the jazz “small group” Butcher recollected part of the drummer, Ian Goodman’s journey with FSC Jazz Collective. He mentioned how grateful he was to have Goodman as part of the group. After his introduction, Butcher showcased another role for this song, rather than conducting the group, he played the trumpet.

Once the intermission ended, I found myself paying attention to smaller details within the remaining six performances. I realized that during the Jazz Ensemble’s performances, I could not hear the keyboard come through the other instruments. The variety of sounds overpowered Jacob Trunzo on the piano.

On a positive note, I enjoyed the trumpet solo by Robert Williams towards the end of the show. He did not seem to overshadow the piece entirely, but I don’t think the performance as a whole would have been as memorable if his solo was no longer a part of it.

The final piece of the night was filled with obvious energy from the beginning to the end. Butcher even started dancing as he directed the Jazz Ensemble and it was refreshing to see the amount of effort that the performers brought as they closed the show.

What made the biggest impression on me from the Festival of Fine Arts event, aside from Trunzo’s piano playing being overshadowed, was that members of the ensemble really worked well together to bring a crisp and clean sound during each performance. Everyone seemed to be aware of the arrangements and well prepared for the night. If anyone was relying heavily on Butcher for guidance, they disguised themselves well in doing so.