Walking around campus earlier this month, I noticed some funky posters along the walls with the question: “Do you play Jazz Music?” Unfortunately, I don’t play jazz or anything really for that matter, but I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. I was curious to see what kind of group this would be: Another student-run band trying to gain presence by playing at parties and other events? Or something department-organized like the Bluegrass Ensemble?
Further snooping led me to sophomores Abe Mamet and Brian LeMeur both eager and excited to tell me more about this new group. And by new I mean really new. Not only is it newly formed this school year, but they just only had tryouts a few weeks ago on Sept. 19 and are having their first practice this week.
As a writer, I’m thrilled for the future of this newborn jazz combo and eager to see all the potential that they will unleash to all those craving quality music in their lives. I asked Abe and Brian a few questions so that students could began to get an idea of what this group is all about and get as excited as I am right now.
Why did you decide to start Jazz Combo?
Abe: I decided to start the group because I felt that there was a lot of untapped jazz talent in the Colorado College student body that could use a structured small jazz combo as an outlet. Tiger Jazz is great, but it is quite structured and is a good intro to playing jazz in a larger group. The Combo hopefully will be a place with more student control and experimentation, focused on original work and heavy improvisation.
How is this group different than other musical groups/jazz groups on campus?
Abe: This is department sponsored, so unlike King Duck, which started out as a jazz combo, this will stay as a jazz combo. That’s what I really was looking for in getting it department-sponsored. I could just get a group of friends together to play jazz, but I really wanted this group to be more focused on playing strictly jazz. As all encompassing as jazz is, I think a lot of groups on campus need to play music for parties to become recognized, and this group wouldn’t need to do that.
Brian: It is different from Tiger Jazz mainly in that the new Jazz Combo is student-organized and run. Fantastic local guitarist and guitar instructor at CC, Tom Taylor, runs Tiger Jazz, but Combo doesn’t have any adult supervision besides Nick Stephens and Ryan Banagale, who helped Abe get the group off the ground. And, as far as I know the auditions were a bit stricter for combo as well.
How were tryouts? Did students show big interests in the group? Anything noteworthy?
Abe: I actually didn’t run tryouts—Nick Stephens and Ryan Banagale did. But tryouts went great; it was fun to have people excited about the group. When you make tryouts mandatory, it adds a certain level of authority to the group, i.e., “I made it, so I’m going to take it more seriously.” There were some damn good players that didn’t make it into the group, but I think that just makes everyone want to work that much harder at perfecting their art. We had a few great freshmen pop out of the woodworks. That was nice to see. Some new faces in the late-night Packard practice rooms are always exciting to have around.
Brian: My audition went all right. We were asked to play “Green Dolphin Street,” a jazz standard, play something of our own, and improvise over chord changes that we saw for the first time in the audition. I would say there was a good amount of student interest, which is great.
Any goals for this new group for the upcoming school year?
Abe: Currently, we are starting small, only planning on playing one show at the end of the semester. Ideally, this group will be a traveling ensemble that plays statewide and national festivals, as well as local gigs, just like the top bluegrass ensemble. But for now, since it is so new, we only have planned for one show. If we feel ready by block three, though, we might look into shows downtown, like Poor Richard’s and other venues. My personal goal is to end the semester with an original set we are proud of. That’s it. So long as we can get something valuable out of our time spent with each other, I will be satisfied.
Brian: My goals for the groups are: one, to have an organized group of committed and dedicated musicians who want to play small combo jazz for audiences; two, expand outside of CC and the Springs—a huge accomplishment would be to play at a jazz festival in Denver or Boulder; and three, show how amazing jazz can be to the rest of CC, making jazz something that is accessible, fun, and cool to my schoolmates.
Where and when can we see this new group perform?
Abe: Well, we haven’t actually gotten together yet, as it took me all of first block to get the group approved and organize tryouts. But our first practice is going to be this Wednesday (Sept. 31). Conservatively speaking, our first live gig will be at the end of the semester in Packard, date TBA. But, maybe we will make a surprise appearance around campus earlier than that. Maybe a lunch gig in Worner or Rastall.
Brian: I very much hope that our first concert is soon. I’m playing in four bands this semester (Tiger Jazz, Combo, Concert Band, and Funkdozer) and Combo is tied for first for the one that I am most excited about. I’ve been waiting for something like this to come along for a while and I can’t tell you how excited I am to have a student-run outlet for musicians who want to play jazz and be dedicated and passionate about it.
What can students expect to see from this group this upcoming school year?
Abe: Students can expect to hear originality, experimental jazz, fusion, funk, bop, blues, ragtime, heavy metal, and just pretty much anything. I am excited to hear what the other members have to say, musically, at our first rehearsal. I honestly don’t know what the group will look like, but I am damn excited to see what comes of it.
Callum Neeson (first-year): Sax, Guitar, Synth, Aux Percussion—pretty much our everything guy
Brian LeMeur (sophomore): Sax
Jonathan Sabetta (sophomore): Guitar
Benjamin Pitta (first-year): Bass
Jacob Lauer (sophomore): Drums
Jordan Rudman (sophomore): Piano
Abe Mamet (sophomore): French Horn, General Brass
Of course, we are all going to be experimenting with new instruments, starting with Aux Percussion.