“Game of Tones” brings jazz, not dragons

by Haley Gordon | 5/6/15 6:29pm

To watch the Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble practice, simply peek through the windows of Hartman Rehearsal Hall on a Tuesday evening as director Don Glasgo conducts the 21-piece band with fervor. It’s a pleasure to watch — but not quite as entertaining as Glasgo says the Barbary Coast’s spring senior feature concert will be this Saturday night.

“This particular group is a very interesting, eclectic bunch and very good musicians,” Glasgo said. “It’s going to be a very interesting concert because you won’t be able to predict what happens from one piece to the next.”

Titled “Game of Tones,” this year’s concert — the ensemble’s 36th annual senior feature — will feature the sounds of eight graduating members — Jeremy Whitaker, Leif Harder, Hannah O’Flynn, Manav Raj, Brett Szalapski, Matt Metzler and Dan Nulton, all members of the Class of 2015, and Angela Kim, a graduate student in digital musics. The program for the evening will feature 12 songs, with one song featuring the particular skill set of each graduating student, Glasgo said.

“The theme is really kind of based around the poster,” Glasgo said. “They were adamant that there had to be a ‘Game of Thrones’ takeoff.”

While the group picked a theme for the concert collectively — with Szalapski providing the pun — most of the musical choices do not individually relate to the theme, Glasgo said. Performances will range from “Resolution,” a classic by John Coltrane, to Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” according to the performance’s program.

“[The graduating members] actually all picked their own songs, which is a little unusual,” Glasgo said. “Usually I help out in that process, but they all knew specifically what they were going to do.”

According to Glasgo, six of the eight graduating ensemble members have been involved with Barbary Coast since their first year at the College. Glasgo said that the graduating group is one of the largest he has ever had, adding that there is a strong social component among the graduates, who have been known to grab dessert together after rehearsals in a tradition known as “post-Coast pie.”

“Playing in the Coast has been one of the most fun things I’ve done in the past four years,” Meltzer, a trumpeter, said. “Music has been a huge part of my life since I was five years old, and it’s really nice to be able to continue playing music with a bunch of people that I really love.”

Among the graduating seniors, each offered a unique reason for the piece they had selected as their showcase. Whitaker, who usually sings gospel and classical music, said that he wanted to perform a big band vocal arrangement for his senior feature, and Raj, who is performing a piece called “Mystic Brew,” said that his musical taste in genres outside of jazz led him to his selection.

“I chose [Mystic Brew] because I’m a big rap fan,” he said. “I found out that [Electric Relaxation] has a really cool baseline with a rap over it, and I found out that it samples a jazz song, so I decided I wanted to do it for my senior feature”

Glasgo, who has been directing the ensemble for 39 years, said that the senior features remain enjoyable every year because he never knows what the seniors will choose to do. In his program notes, he referred to this year’s graduates as “an extraordinary group.”

“Together they’ve played an enormous role in raising the bar for the Barbary Coast,” he wrote.

“Game of Tones” will begin at 8 p.m. on Saturday evening in Spaulding Auditorium. Tickets range from nine to 10 dollars.