Jazz Combos performs at Doudna Thursday night


Tyanna Daniels

From left, Savanna Wooten, a junior music education major, and Daniel Torres, a junior music performance major, play in the Birdland Quintet at the Jazz Combos at the Dvorak Concert Hall on Thursday.

Ryan Meyer, Multimedia Reporter

Two jazz combo bands took the stage Thursday night in the Dvorak Concert Hall to perform jazz standards and popular tunes arranged for the event.  

The Birdland Quintet began the evening, featuring Daniel Torres and Savanna Wooten on the trombone, Jacob Ramage on a guitar, Ian Palacios on bass and Paul Nau on the drums.  

Nau, a junior majoring in audio recording technology, transferred to Eastern this year and auditioned for the combo bands after having a positive experience at his previous school. 

“I really wanted to play in one,” Nau said. “I knew I wanted to play in one because at my other school I was at, I played in jazz groups and it was really enjoyable. I just love jazz, so I wanted to play in one. I auditioned, and I got in.” 

The Birdland Quintet’s performance included a rendition of “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5, arranged by combo coach and professor of jazz studies Paul Johnston. 

“This particular set, we did a lot of arranged pieces for the two trombonists,” Nau said. “So usually, we’d like to bring in pieces or something. This time our combo coach, Paul Johnston, he sort of picked a couple of those specific for two trombones. But then he actually arranged the last piece that we did, ‘I Want You Back.’” 

They also played “This Could Be the Start of Something Big” by Steve Allen and “Israel” and “Georgia on My Mind” by Hoagy Carmichael. 

The Blue Note Quintet took the stage after the first set and featured August Frisby and Kyle Huddleston on saxophone, Alexis Pope on bass, Andrew Powell on drums and Johnston on the piano. 

The second set concluded with “Hey Fool” by Hal Galper, which was presented to the group through a video Frisby found. 

“…That last piece, August Frisby brought in a video of that and wanted to do it,” Johnston said. “So I transcribed it, and we’ve been working on it, and it’s a fun piece.” 

The Blue Note Quintet’s set also featured “Driftin’” by Herbie Hancock, “Summertime” by George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward and “Asiatic Raes” by Kenny Dorham. 

At many points during the Blue Note Quintet’s set, the musicians could be seen expressing their approval of each other’s solos with satisfied facial expressions and visual cues.  

Nau, as the drummer, had a view of all his bandmates and was able to direct the band through certain moments, but said the performances are ultimately a team effort. 

“I do feel a certain sense of responsibility, like as a driving force, but that being said, for group to group, everybody has to be in agreement,” Nau said. “I don’t see myself as a leader; we’re definitely all in it together.” 

Johnston said this onstage attitude is part of what he loves about performing with students. 

“I really love to play; it’s fun to play with students because they bring out a lot of energy and enthusiasm,” Johnston said. “So I appreciate that very much.” 

Johnston said that performing music unfamiliar to him is a way he learns and one of the better things about teaching.  

“Any time that you’re playing new music, you always learn,” Johnston said. “And that’s one of the joys of teaching is that you’re always trying to learn something new and learn new things and think about things in different ways. So I appreciate the opportunity to do that.”


Ryan Meyer can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].