By Allison Christensen
The Jazz Ensemble and Combo performed a musical history lesson showing the development of jazz throughout the 20th century called “Jazztennial” in the Winona County History Center’s new performance space on April 18.
“Jazz was, for many years, popular music,” said Eric Heukeshoven, director of the Saint Mary’s Jazz Ensemble and Combo. He had “centennial on the brain” when he came up with the idea.
The pre-show featured Minnesota Music Hall of Fame inductees Les Fields and the Turkey River All-Stars, who played traditional Dixieland jazz. The Turkeys, hailing from Rochester, Minn., have performed for five U.S. presidents and were the official band for the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans.
The concert kicked off with pieces from the roarin’ 20s by Spencer Williams and Duke Ellington. The ensemble then sailed through the 30s with “Lester Leaps In,” by Lester Young.
During the 50s, a group of Phi Mu Alpha members formed a big band called the Marinotes and toured throughout the Midwest. While cleaning out a storage room, Heukeshoven discovered a box of their original sheet music. The ensemble made a tribute to the Marinotes with “Moonlight Serenade” and the Frank Sinatra hit “You Make Me Feel So Young,” sung by guest vocalist Gabriel Verges.
Following an intermission, the SMU Jazz Combo introduced the audience to mid-century jazz with Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh’s “Witchcraft,” also sung by Gabriel Verges, “Milestones,” by Miles Davis, and many more. The ensemble demonstrated 70s funk with “Pick up the Pieces” by Roger Ball. Les Fields and the Turkey River All-Stars reappeared on stage to play the original version of “Sweet Georgia Brown.” The Jazz Ensemble then played the same song rearranged 60 years later to show the audience the transformation of jazz over the years. The Ensemble ended the concert with a 21st century piece called “Chronometry” by Fred Sturm, and reached back in time 40 years for Charles Mingus’ showstopper, “Moanin’.”