By Andrew McNally, Columnist
On April 4, students and faculty filled the seats in the Helene Fortunoff Theater on a Wednesday night to watch the Hofstra Jazz Faculty Ensemble perform a blistering, two-hour set. Seven professors of music – Holli Ross on vocals, Steve Kenyon on woodwind instruments, Rick Stone on guitar, David Lalama on piano, Peter Coco and Martin Wind on bass and Tony Tedesco on drums – were on the bill, and were joined by yet another, Alejandro Aviles, on the alto saxophone.
Professor David Lalama acted as the main emcee for the show, cracking jokes and introducing band members in between the pieces. Nearly every member got their chance for the microphone; however, the show did not go without accolades, too. Two of the pieces were written by performers. “Soccer Ball” was penned by Martin Wind, and “October” was written by Lalama, even though Lalama complained that “October” was one of his early works that he forced students to play. They did not fail to mention, either, Steve Kenyon’s current involvement in the Broadway play “Porgy & Bess.” The band, with Kenyon on saxophone, performed “My Man’s Gone Now,” from the George Gershwin show.
Naturally, all eight of the performers showed supreme talent. The concert’s opener, Gene DePaul’s “I’ll Remember April,” was percussion-heavy, and featured solos from four of the six musicians on stage. Still, the booming, gritty vocals provided by Holli Ross dominated over the backing instruments. One of the most entertaining parts of the concert, perhaps for its more unconventional feel, was Ray Brown’s “F. S. R.,” which featured just two musicians, Martin Wind and Peter Coco, both playing stand-up basses. The audience was treated to the story behind the song, and how it probably stands for “For Sonny Rollins.” The final song was a ‘contrafactual,’ where one song was played – Maceo Pinkard’s “Sweet Georgia Brown” – and two subsequent songs were played over the background rhythm of the first song, instead of its own. The two subsequent songs were Thelonious Monk’s “Bright Mississippi,” followed by Miles Davis’ “Dig.” The song featured dueling solos between Lalama and Wind, where Wind used a violin bow on his stand-up bass. It was the only song that featured every performer playing together, something expected but still gratifying after a number of combinations built up to it.
Nothing less than stellar was expected by such a line-up of talented musicians. And they delivered, displaying talents through eleven songs that used just about every combination of people as possible. Every performer got their chance to shine, and did so in a grand fashion. The concert was made possible thanks to a grant from the D’Addario Music Appreciation Initiative. It was featured as part of the Jazz Appreciation Month.