Throughout the week of April 17, N.C. Central University jazz faculty, students, alumni, and other featured musicians used the B.N. Duke Auditorium stage to celebrate power of jazz and NCCU’s growing musical talent at the 27th NCCU Jazz Festival.
The festival kicked off the week with its first event, the Jazz Combos concert. This concert featured students from Combos 1, 2, and 3 and Jazz Ensemble 2 classes. These students were all under the direction of music professors Aaron Hill, Baron Tymas, Damon Brown, and Robert Trowers.
Then on April 18, it was time for the 6th annual NCCU Vocal Jazz Summit, which included evening performances from NCCU alumna and vocalist Mavis Poole, and students in the NCCU Vocal Jazz Combos, a community workshop taught by NCCU Jazz faculty, and a master class from Poole.
Jazz freshman and saxophonist Jaedon Harpe said he enjoyed attending Poole’s master class. Since coming to NCCU to study music, this year was beginning of Harpe’s exposure to playing jazz music as opposed to other genres he played throughout his time as a saxophonist. For him, her class was “really worth it.”
“She said a lot of things that I want to apply to my practice. ” said Harpe. ” Like when she said, ‘If you’re practicing good, you’re doing it wrong,’ That kind of stuck with me because I always get frustrated every time I practiced. Even if I don’t do my best in my practice, that’s not the point of practice. It’s about trying to fix the mistakes until the actual performance.”
The NCCU Jazz faculty also held their own concert at the festival, which included vocalese and band performances from assistant professor Lenora Helm Hammonds, instructor Ed Paolantonio, associate professor Ira Wiggins, associate professor Baron Tymas, and trumpet professor Albert Strong.
Jazz junior Ashesh Chatterjee said seeing the faculty members perform throughout the week was one of the highlights of the NCCU jazz festival for him. Chatterjee performed during the Combos concert on the first night. When he saw Wiggins performed a vocalese version of Dexter Gordon’s “Hearthaches” album with Poole, Chatterjee said “it blew his mind.”
“I never heard him play like that before on the tenor sax,” he said. “It was like, ‘Whoa now I can see how good my teachers are…Immediately after the show, I just went to the practice room and was there for two hours playing my guitar. That was really inspiring.”
Eve Cornelius, another NCCU alumna vocalist, performed alongside the opening vocalists, NCCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble Friday night, April 19. Cornelius performed covers from artists such as Dionne Warwick and even sang a jazz version of Alicia Keys’ “You Don’t Know My Name.”
During the concert, Helm-Hammonds announced that graduating senior Autumn Rainey was a featured vocalist on the HBO film “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” She sang “Motherless Children” on the movie’s soundtrack, according to News and Record Greensboro.
American jazz trombonist, bandleader, and arranger John Fedchock was the last guest performer to close out the 27th NCCU Jazz Festival.
Under the direction of Wiggins, students from Jazz Ensemble I opened and some students, such as student trombonist Taylor Young, played alongside Fedchock.
Chatterjee said overall, this year’s festival was enjoyable.
“You can always see more improvement but all in all, it was a great event,” he said. “The one thing that I would really love to see next year is a guitar summit for the guitar majors. It would be really cool to have that happen.”
For Harpe, this was the first jazz festival he’s ever attended and performed in. Overall, he said it was a new experience for him.
“I would give this year a 10 out of 10. This was the first jazz festival I’ve ever been to,” said Harpe. “I’ve never done jazz before prior to this year and I really enjoyed [the festival] because I learned a lot. I learned a lot from playing, the workshops, listening to music–It was great.”