Jazz Ensemble delivers “Big Band, Blues, and Beyond”

Millersville's Jazz Ensemble (Colin Vandenberg/Snapper)

Colin Vandenberg

Associate Arts & Culture Editor

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On Friday, February 24, The Millersville Jazz Ensemble presented “Big Band, Blues, and Beyond” at the Winter Visual and Performing Arts Center. The concert was notable for featuring guest artist Mark Buselli, jazz composer, soloist, and director of jazz studies at Ball State University.

The auditorium in the WVPAC was almost filled to capacity when the Millersville jazz band, led by Dr. Keith Wiley, entered the stage. The performance began with the laid-back tune “Good News,” which featured soloists on alto sax, tenor sax, and trumpet. Throughout the night, nearly every member of the band got the opportunity to play a few solo bars to spice up these numbers and get a rise out of the audience. This includes lead guitars, drummers, the electric bass, trombone, bass trombone, and more.

Buselli arrived on campus two days prior to this concert, and participated in practice sessions with the band, one-on-one practices with various Millersville students, as well as jazz events with two other local schools. Dr. Wiley introduced the set-list as a “hodge-podge” of sorts, meaning that not every song listed in the program was performed, and was in a different order than those printed.

The program distinguished the selections between songs featuring just the Millersvillle jazz ensemble and the songs in featuring Mark Buselli. The band‘s own set list featured big-band staples, such as “Do Nothin’ till You Hear from Me” featuring vocal soloist Madeline Heraty, and the high-energy “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” with vocalist Brenna Deil. The band alternated these tunes with other big band songs and original compositions by Mark Buselli, at which point he joined them on stage to perform trumpet and/or flugelhorn. The only song performed with Buselli which was not written or arranged by him, was the ballad “Goodbye Little Dream Goodbye.”

Buselli introduced each of his original songs with anecdotes about how and why they were written. For example, he got the idea for “Trouble with Triplets”—a reference to a rhythmic pattern in music which —came from the classic episode of “Star Trek titled “The Trouble with Tribbles.” Other examples included, the 135B Chiswick,” inspired by a basement apartment he had previously lived in, that had flooded. This song offered the unique pairing of Flugelhorn and electric bass, each sharing the melody. Despite only one rehearsal with Buselli, the band played well as a unit, which offered the audience an entertaining and memorable experience.
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