New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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Review: NYU jazz ensembles take over Blue Note jazz club

Two of NYU’s jazz ensembles performed original songs and covers this past weekend at Greenwich Village’s Blue Note.
Jax Coopersmith
NYU Jazz Studies students performed at the Blue Note. (Jax Coopersmith for WSN)

Ensembles from NYU’s Jazz Studies program took Greenwich Village’s Blue Note by storm this weekend, with two sets packed with city residents eager to see the next generation of musicians. 

The Blue Note, founded in 1981, is one the most prominent jazz clubs in New York City. Headlining many famous artists such as Ron Carter, Robert Glasper and Tank and the Bangas, the Blue Note has been a cultural icon for the celebration and evolution of music. On Dec. 3, students from NYU’s Jazz Studies program had the opportunity to play covers of iconic jazz pieces at the venue. 

The show started with the NYU Wayne Shorter Ensemble, led by Director of Jazz Studies Dave Pietro. Celebrating the jazz giant Wayne Shorter, the ensemble swung into the set with “Harry’s Last Stand.” They then set the mood with “Iris” and followed up with an enthusiastic rendition of “Elegant People.” The glittery piano and the grounding bass had a harmonious sound, creating a well-rounded composition. The saxophonists stood out with their vibrant playing and solo features throughout the set.

Jenna Love, NYU Music and Performing Arts Professions saxophonist, commanded the stage with her solos. From her beautiful tone on the ballad “Calm” and her harmony with the band throughout the set, the saxophone stood out to the audience.

“I was just playing off everyone’s energy,” Love said. “It was amazing just to play at such a historic venue and think of all the people that inspired me that shared the stage at the Blue Note.” 

Bassist Ryoma Takenaga, who also played during the set, said the audience was a large part of his performance. 

“I think the connection between me as an instrumentalist and the listener is a really special relationship, and it’s bidirectional,” Takenaga said. “So the energy that I give to the audience comes back to me, and I thrive off of that energy.” 

The second set of the night was led by Steinhardt faculty and bassist Dezron Douglas, featuring his eponymous student ensemble. The band primarily performed original music written by the students to showcase the hard work and creativity they invested into their music. Vibraphonist Dylan Smith’s solo on the tune was artful and impressive, playing dark and mellow tones to shiny and bright notes. His playing was graceful but cohesive, and the band followed his lead to create cohesion throughout the ensemble’s set. 

“Before the Rain,” by pianist Teddy Kingsbury, was the highlight of the set. This luscious ballad, filled with color and emotion, featured a melody played on both the saxophone and trumpet. Kingsbury’s solo helped add a sense of serenity to the tune, making it a notable performance. 

Another standout performer was trumpet player Antonio Mollura. His melodic touch and deep connection with the music glued the band together. His cohesive playing was memorable with his own original tune “Saika,” a waltz-like ballad that emanated peace of mind and the feeling of home. 

Both ensembles focused on highlighting student talent and exposing the Village to old-school jazz. Throughout the two performances, the artistic interpretation and soul was evident. 

“I was blessed to be around some very heavy and inspiring giants of music, and they guided me, and dropped a lot of information on me, and allowed me the space to learn it and internalize it my way,” Douglas said during a speech. “And I hope that I can return the favor to these students.” 

Contact Jax Coopersmith at [email protected].

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    ALLEN MCFARLANEDec 7, 2023 at 9:26 am

    …this is wonderful and I love the music of the NYU Jazz Studies Program! Hope to see more events around the City!!