Loyola students bring musical talents to Jazz Fest stage

Kameron Hay


Zach Brien

Patrick Kelleher, a music industries senior, plays drums with Don Vappie at the Economy Hall tent during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Skies were clear and weather was mild for the first weekend of the festival.

Caleb Beck

Loyola’s jazz ensemble will be playing the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival next weekend with eclectic song choices and an expanded roster of musicians.

On Thursday, May 4, the ensemble will play the festival’s Zatarain’s/WWOZ Jazz Tent in Heritage Square to deliver a 45-minute performance, incorporating many styles of jazz and funk music. The ensemble will be joined by fourteen acapella singers from the popular and commercial music and vocal performance majors, rounding out the band with 38 musicians.

Gordon Towell, coordinator of jazz studies at Loyola, has been leading the ensemble for three years, and said his goal is to bring Loyola’s musical talent to the masses.

“I try to expose the audience as well as the band to new material, and it’s great to help bring awareness to the program. The ensemble has played Jazz Festival for years, so we’re trying to play surprising, engaging pieces. We have a Thelonious Monk chart we’re playing we’re really excited for,” Towell said.

Isaac Worley, popular and commercial music junior and drummer for the ensemble said he’s confident in the ensemble’s skills and is looking forward to the show.

“I think we’ve all become way better and more together as a band, so the songs themselves sound better than ever before and we’ve been able to try more interesting charts,” Worley said.

Jeremy Kern, jazz performance junior and saxophonist said that there are key elements that define chemistry in a band and he feels the ensemble has reached these goals.

“Chemistry is found in the communication between sections and individuals in the band/sections. The rhythm section needs the drummer and bassist to lock in, the saxophone, trombone and trumpets need the lead players to lock in, and then the rest of the section can follow suit. It’s this cooperation that produces the uniquely impactful sound of a big band since its all sounds harmonious,” Kern said.

Worley said this chemistry is one of the ensemble’s finer aspects.

“We’ve got a better blend right now of songs that feature the band and the soloists and songs that feature the singers. My favorite song is one by Maria Schneider called ‘Green Piece’. It’s a modern jazz tune with lots of time signature changes and open-ended solos with a lot of room for interpretation, which lets the individual players shine more creatively.”

Kern said he’s thrilled to be a part of the decades of Jazz Fest heritage, and hopes to see the performances surrounding the ensemble over the two weekends.

“There’s so many different kinds of music going on during the seven days, and some of our favorite artists have played this tent before us. It’s surreal to have this shared space and carry this tradition forward,” Kern said.

Avery Bell, music performance junior and trombonist said Towell’s leadership keeps the musicians on their toes and introduces them to new pieces at a rapid pace.

“Dr. Towell always manages to keep the music fresh. Some of the songs we’re performing for this show we’ve only ever read through a couple times. Nothing gets stale in this ensemble and we hope to bring this element to the performance,” Bell said.