Monday, November 19, 2012
Review: UMKC Student Jazz Combos at White Recital Hall
Jazz is hard. The music's advocates in Kansas City are so accustomed to hearing performances by exquisitely refined musicians that it's easy to take their virtuosity for granted.
I was one of about 50 people who witnessed 14 students of UMKC's Jazz Studies program struggle to master their craft as members of three ensembles at White Recital Hall on the evening of November 12. The concert concluded with a performance of a band led by Paul Roberts.
I was unable to identify a player that seemed destined for greatness but that doesn't mean that none of the students won't develop into extraordinary musicians. It usually takes time to develop an individual voice. There's a big difference between achieving technical proficiency and becoming an interesting musician. One drummer, for instance, played with the lifeless efficiency of an intricate drum machine.
Much of the problem may have been a function of the format. The members of a couple ensembles seemed constricted by the inclinations of both their bandmates and by the presence of their instructors. I suspect that the students are fully capable of playing with far more passion in looser settings with likeminded musicians of their own choosing.
That's why I was disconcerted that I was laying my eyes on all but two or three of the students for the first time. Maybe if these budding musicians had spent more time attending confident performances by the likes of Vijay Iyer and Jeff Harshbarger they wouldn't have seemed quite as uncomfortable on stage Monday.
With the addition of a little more seasoning in the real world, I'm confident that Bobby Watson and his excellent staff at UMKC will transform at least one of these promising kids into the next Hermon Mehari or Logan Richardson.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)