Jazz festival blasts off at the speed of light

Eastern Jazz celebrates 13th annual Jazz Dialogue Festival

By Davis Hill, Staff Writer



The sound of jazz filled the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox as award-winning trombone player Robin Eubanks performed on stage with the EWU Concert Jazz Ensemble.

The concert was the final act of the 13th annual Jazz Dialogue Festival, a two-day event celebrating and educating students on the tradition of jazz, presented by EWU Jazz, on Jan. 11 and 12.

Eubanks, the featured guest artist at the festival, performed several of his own arrangements with the ensemble. Other artists who performed with the ensemble included vocalist Kate Reid, trumpet player Tito Carrillo, drummer Jeff Davis and guitarist Andrew Synowiec.

Prior to the ensemble and Eubanks taking the stage, the opening act was “Jazz At The Speed of Light.” Director of EWU Jazz Studies Phil Doyle talked about the Metropolitan Area Network Optimized Music Environment project. Created by music producer Craig Volosing and worked on by professors Jonathan Middleton and Steve Simmons, the project allows artists on stage to perform simultaneously with artists across the world via video screen and a connection speed referred to as “Internet two.”

Doyle performed a set with Chip McNeill and Jim Pugh from the University of Illinois then stepped off stage as the audience watched Ari Bragi and Eythor Gummarsson from the University of Reykjaavik, Iceland, play a tune.

In addition to allowing musicians to have a chance at a jam session with musicians across the world, the project was also presented as a teaching tool. Tim Ziler was one of 1,000 students selected to perform onstage with the EWU Faculty Jazz Combo. After Tim’s solo, McNeil and Pugh gave the student some advice to help him improve.

Although he was given a lesson in front of a large audience, Tim felt comfortable about receiving the advice from McNeil and Pugh.

“It was so precise I took it in full,” Tim said. “I’m trying to find someone who filmed it, watch it again and work on those issues.”

The first day of the festival gave hundreds of middle school, high school and college jazz band students from all over Washington state, like Tim, an opportunity to come to Eastern to meet and learn from music professors and various musical guests.

After 30 minutes of warm-up, groups would go on stage and perform a quick concert in front of staff members as well as their classmates. In some scenarios, a musician or a teacher would join the students on stage and give them tips.

Just as Enterprise Middle School’s vocal group was about to leave the stage, they were joined by Reid.

After praising their sound, Reid suggested that the students playing in the rhythm section should soften their sound, then told the vocalists not to take a breath during the “You and I are just like a couple of tots” part in Martin Young’s “You Make Me Feel So Young.”

After the performance, groups had a formal critique. Mike Saccomanno, who teaches at Mead High School and is the director of Vocal Jazz Studies at EWU, critiqued Enterprise Middle School’s vocal group, which he said was an advanced group.

“You see a wide range of people on all different paths,” Saccomanno said. “Some are really advanced and some are much more beginning,”

In addition to the performances and critiques, there were workshops presented by musicians who gave advice to the students.

Carrillo talked about the importance of improvising and challenged the students to memorize notes without looking at the book and practicing outside of the bandroom.

“I’ve been playing this trumpet for 28 years,” Carrillo said. “When you’re hearing me, you’re hearing 28 years of a commitment to practicing and to getting better.”

Nathan Fickle, a middle school student and jazz band student, enjoyed listening to other bands and learning from the instructors.

“It’s always good to know what we need to do better,” Nathan said.

Percussionist Bailey Noble has performed at the festival every year. According to Noble, the festival allows college students to network with band directors and other musicians.

“[You’re] really getting to know musicians close to you and people you can talk to about getting good information about being a musician and gigging,” Noble said.

At the end of the first day, many of the students packed the Showalter Auditorium to watch the EWU Faculty Jazz Combo and the EWU Concert Jazz Ensemble perform with Reid.

For Doyle, one difficult aspect of the festival was highlighting both the students and the artists equally. While the festival was successful, Doyle plans on taking little steps in preparing for the festival in 2014.

“[We will be] taking a look at how we can top this next year, and keep the momentum and every year getting a little bit better,” Doyle said.