Photo by Daniel Coston.

Let me get this out of the way, this was the very first time I have gone out and watched the Jazz Ensemble. This was built out of curiosity since I have a liking for Jazz music. And boy, this was something that I was glad I got a chance to check out.

On Dec. 4, the Jazz Ensemble band of UNCC took the stage for the last time this semester. This was also the last time interim director Wally West will be appearing, making the event a “bittersweet moment” for him and the band.

The concert kicked off with “Pea Shooter,” which prominently shows Jackson Cini’s wonderful tenor saxophone playing. This opening number really sets up how talented the band is.

The concert would proceed with a few pieces from The Kansas City Suite that features tracks at various tempos. “Meetin’ Time” is very slow and relaxing to listen to and something that will convince you to not go to church, according to West. While “Rompin’ at the Reno” is a high pace track with Cini and Dante Fowler (on trumpet).

“Together Houses” is probably my personal favorite from the setlist. The reason why is due to the alto saxophone from Bryce Harris. His playing was ringing and almost made me cry due to the sheer passion his playing.

The band would later play some interesting renditions of songs from “The Nutcracker Suite.” According to West, these renditions of “Sugar Rum Cherry” and “Peanut Brittle Brigade” can leave listeners thinking these are butchered versions or something amazing.

Thankfully, they are the latter. Because these versions display the technicality of all the musicians, I love the how dynamic those tracks were and I was the edge of my seat.

The penultimate track “White Christmas” features James Matens on lead vocals. It’s a nice change of pace to have a lead vocalist, however I kind of expected to him to sing more and I could hear him loud enough from where I was watching the concert.

The concert ended with “Cruisin’ for a Bluesin’,” a track that a features a barrage of solo playing from Cini, Harris, Fowler, Avery Bumgarner (on baritone saxophone) and Matt Nofsinger (on alto saxophone). This barrage put an amazing ending to the show.

I absolutely love this performance and am willing to come back for more. Congratulations to the ensemble for an excellent show.

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