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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    These jazzy Friday nights

    Rebecca Noble

    In dramatic pose, a trumpeter plays soulfully. Friday Night Live! Summer Concert Series sees UA student jazz musicians playing every other Friday.

    This Friday at 7 p.m. at Geronimo Plaza in Main Gate Square, three UA Jazz students will perform as a trio at the second installment of the summer concert series, Friday Night Live!

    Friday Night Live! Jazz Summer Concert Series is put on by The Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance, “a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving, creating and expanding Arts and Culture in Southern Arizona,” according to its website. Jonas Hunter, Special Events Director of SAACA, said every other Friday, the organization hosts free jazz shows at Geronimo Plaza, inviting Tucsonans less familiar with the university area to explore what Main Gate Square has to offer while experiencing different forms of jazz at every concert. 

    “SAACA was approached by Main Gate — the Marshall Foundation — to create a concert series around the summer-break downtime,” Hunter said. “It also attracts the non-student demographic of Tucson to experience the businesses and restaurants at Main Gate when students [are] not there.”  

    Hunter said he feels the performances featuring the UA students further connect the university and greater Tucson communities, giving “student musicians a chance to shine in [their] community.” 

    Jazz studies junior Gibb Mandish will play the drums at this week’s Friday Night Live!, along with Sean Gale on guitar and Jeff Sandberg on bass. Mandish said the trio will mainly be playing jazz standards. Associate professor of music, Angelo Versace, said he prepares his students for performances, which benefit their development as musicians, throughout the entire semester.

    “I choose the music at the beginning of each semester, and we rehearse three times a week to prepare for any performances or concerts thought the semester,” Versace said. “I am frequently scheduling gigs for UA students which are outside of the school; once a musician reaches a certain level in the practice room and/or private lesson, the only way for them to grow musically is to play live shows.”

    Mandish added that he feels most people don’t realize just how playing jazz music works. 

    “A key concept of jazz is this concept of improvisation,” he said. “You’re playing something new over the same foundation every time, which is what’s cool. … The music is [never] going to be the same, and you’re really just working on specific things you need to improve before the next performance. The main focus is how you interact, how you talk with [your band mates].”

    Mandish said he played with Gale and Sandberg in a combo when the School of Music was renamed. He, along with Sandberg, played at the last Friday Night Live! concert, but without Gale. 

    “We had a sax player who is actually in the big band, too — Chris Herald, [who] played at the last Friday night gig,” Mandish said. “[SAACA] wanted a different band, so we have a guitarist [this time] instead of Chris.”

    Mandish also said he enjoys playing in the combo. 

    Versace said he thinks Mandish, Gale and Sandberg playing together so frequently is a beneficial experience for the musicians. 

    “I think the more you play with someone, the better musical instincts you have with one another,” he said.

    Mandish said he really enjoys playing live shows, “depending on the context” of the audience. He looks to please and connect with the audience. 

    “I mean, I really enjoy [playing live gigs],” Mandish said. “If I feel like I’m playing for an audience that actually cares, then I enjoy it a lot more. If I’m playing background music, it’s a lot harder to focus; to get in the zone. If you’re playing for yourself, it’s kind of selfish. As much as it’s for you and your personal enjoyment, it’s your responsibility, I think, to try and make the audience understand what you’re doing. You don’t want to alienate them.”

    Mandish said he feels like this week’s Friday Night Live! concert will draw in a more mature, older audience due to the lack of popularity of jazz music in our generation; he thinks most UA students probably don’t care much about jazz music. He is excited to perform, nonetheless.

    “In the context of jazz, the audience provides a different kind of atmosphere,” he said. “Anywhere I’ve done my performances, there’s more excitement, there’s more interaction. There’s more of an electrifying conversation when you perform live than there would be if you were recording in a studio. Just because it’s, like, an atmosphere of change; you’re generally excited if they’re excited.” 

    Friday Night Live! will run every other Friday from April 3 to Aug. 21, and it will be held at Geronimo Plaza in Main Gate Square. At no charge, it is an event that any Tucsonan or UA student interested in jazz can attend, enriching and supporting Tucson’s jazz community from the university to professional levels.


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