Jazz earns music notes

In the dimly-lit Recital Hall in the UAA Fine Arts Building, a band played old-time jazz music Sept. 29. The smooth sounds of Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee and Oscar Hammerstein filled the audience members’ ears at the UAA Jazz Week Benefit Concert.

The event was the first of several benefit concerts sponsored by the Department of Music to raise money for the 20th Annual Jazz Week Concert Series, which takes place in March. Organizers of the Jazz Week Concert Series fly professional guest artists from various parts of the state to run clinics and work with UAA and high school students.

Karen Strid-Chadwick, the UAA music department’s chair and a professor of jazz studies, was the main organizer of the jazz concerts. She thinks these events bring life to the standard classical repertoire studied in the music program. There is a more mainstream sound being preformed than people realize, Strid-Chadwick said. 

The benefit featured a handful of seasoned performers including trumpet player Randy Scherer, bassist Bob Ramponi, drummer Curtis Bates and vocalist Brenda Vulgamore.

Vulgamore has been playing with this group on and off for years. 

“I used to play with Karen before she became a professor here, and the rest of us have been friends for years,” Vulgamore said. 

The concert was a bit impromptu, Vulgamore said.

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“I have done a few benefits over the years, and for this (one) we just got last night to practice.”

Guest trumpeter Scherer has participated in a few benefits and he admired the Recital Hall’s acoustics.  

“This is a wonderful hall to play in. We can play an acoustic set without any mics at all and it will still sound amazing,” Scherer said.

After the featured set, the UAA Jazz Combo, comprised of three singers, a bassist, a drummer and a pianist, performed a fun two-song set. Vulgamore led the combo in “Get Your Kicks on Route 66.”  

“Chancellor Maimon said to us that she wanted UAA to be a town center and be more visible,” Strid-Chadwick said. “We feel that there is no better way to do that than to share the fine arts.”