Arts & Culture

Jazz group jams at Underground

Arts & Culture Staff Writer
Thursday, October 13, 2011

There’s a rumble at the Underground. Upon approaching this Main Green venue, soft swung notes snake into your ears. You walk, and the bass takes a syncopate stroll. Its low grumble swings fluidly from plucked note to note, keeping pace with the soft clash of the drums.

“It’s a vibe that pushes you to grow,” said Matt Block ’13, who founded these weekly Jazz Jam sessions last fall. “For me, it’s about the camaraderie — it’s loose and open. And the music really gets cooking.”

Almost every Wednesday night, a cabal of cool cats assembles to form a liquidlike ensemble — smooth tunes and studied nonchalance. The cast of musicians changes with each song, bringing fresh, brash brass to rip and feed into the plush sound.

Block said he discussed starting the jam sessions with Matthew McGarrell, senior lecturer in music and director of the University’s official jazz band, and it took off from there. The group that meets now is fluid — members join in certain pieces and fade out in others. The jazz spirit of improvisation comes to life in the snare of a drum or wan of a trumpet.

“It’s all about being open to creativity, sharing the spotlight, getting the experience,” said Block, a seasoned trumpet player who honed his sound in his hometown of Philadelphia at the famous Chris’ Jazz cafe.

The culture of jazz is both blaring and blase — passion is clear in the music, but the musicians, even after the sharpest numbers, slink off stage to join the head-bobbing sidelines. Their debonair sense hangs heavy, and a defined elegance pervades.

The Jazz Jam will perform at Buxton House Wednesday, Oct. 19 at 9:30 p.m.

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