Arts concert review

Six decades, twelve trumpets, and infinite beauty

MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble, MIT Alumni Jazz Band, and trumpeter Sean Jones express the legacy of jazz with incredible technique and musicality

MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble
MIT Alumni Jazz Band
Sean Jones
Kresge Auditorium
March 9

The 12th Annual Herb Pomeroy Memorial Concert honored the legacy of the influential jazz performer, educator, and founder of the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble (FJE) through exhilarating and heart-wrenching personal compositions. Most of the compositions were “personal” in the sense that they were either written by a player or conductor, or were important to people’s lives. The performance showcased the talents of many musicians, presented a night full of beautiful music, and united the audience in emotional, spiritual ways.

The program opened with “Yesterdays,” a jazz standard about nostalgia originally written in 1933. Particularly impressive in this piece were the watery, smooth introduction from the piano and the incredible volume control and articulations of all the players. This set the scene for the world premiere of “Wizard.” Written by FJE trumpeter Alan Osmundson ’19, “Wizard” featured a solo trumpet solo performed by special guest artist Sean Jones. This piece was indeed befitting of its name, from the beginning mysterious mood to the mind-blowingly high notes and smooth arpeggios.

The soloist, Sean Jones, enthusiastically welcomed by the audience, led a major portion of the concert and shared the backstory to the music with the audience. A smaller group from the FJE performed with him, and it was clear that Sean Jones was not only a performer, but also a leader and educator in jazz.

The most memorable piece of the concert was “BJ’s Tune,” composed by Sean Jones himself. Before playing this, Jones explained to the audience his inspiration to write this piece, “There’s a lot that unites us. If you can’t think of something I’ll give you one thing,” he said. “Fried chicken,” he continued and began the piece. The tune was beautiful and uplifting, and became more powerful over time. Right after the climax, the trumpet played a slow solo section that took everyone’s breaths away. It was like a movie scene, where the unaccompanied trumpeter was alone, on stage, with the lights focused on him. It was a hymn, and toward the end, the rest of the ensemble joined him in warm harmony. I could see audience members nearby shedding a tear at the sheer beauty of the piece. This received a well-deserved standing ovation, even though it was in the middle of the concert.

This concert brought out the theme of unity in the world of jazz, and toward the end, it showed us the unity of generations and backgrounds. The MIT Alumni Jazz Band represented six decades of musicians and even had members who were father and son. “In Search of the Master,” a flugelhorn feature written by trombonist Richard “The Chief” Orr ’62, was dedicated to Herb Pomeroy, the “Master” who led jazz at MIT for so long.

The finale brought all the musicians together in a standard B-flat blues. Composed and conducted by Mark Harvey, “3Bs & A Bop” had many different instruments playing solos, cued in by a pointed finger. It was a casual setting and a way to hear all of the amazing musicians in the entire concert.

The Festival Jazz Ensemble, the MIT Alumni Jazz Band, and trumpeter Sean Jones performed together to honor jazz legend Herb Pomeroy while showing off all of the recent compositions, impressive techniques, and talented musicians. The program was well-designed and balanced to deliver different emotions through jazz, from excitement to nostalgia. The Ensemble hosted an unforgettable night of jazz for all of the audience and continued a strong tradition of jazz here at MIT.