CSUN faculty jam using improvisation while performing at jazz recital

Vera Castaneda

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Howie Shear on trumpet and Darek Oles on double bass perform at the Jazz Faculty Recital Wednesday, Aug. 4. Photo credit: Ken Scarboro / Senior Photographer

Howie Shear on trumpet and Darek Oles on double bass perform at the Jazz Faculty Recital Wednesday, Aug. 4. Photo credit: Ken Scarboro / Senior Photographer

CSUN faculty musicians performed a mix of jazz standards and original compositions for crowd brimming with students in Cypress Recital Hall Thursday night.

“It is essentially a jam session, but at a high level because they are faculty,” said Kyle Stephens, music department staff.

Each semester numerous music students perform in concerts. However, concerts designed for faculty are not as common. The Jazz Faculty Recital occurs once in the beginning of every semester.

“The recital is an opportunity for the jazz faculty to perform for students—faculty performance is useful in demonstrating our level of performance,” said Gary Pratt, music professor and co-director of jazz studies and one of the musicians at this recital.

The nearly ten musicians onstage were a mixture of full-time faculty and part-time staff.

The faculty split into groups to perform various jazz pieces.

Gary Pratt, director of jazz studies, performs a solo for students, faculty and the general public at the Jazz Faculty Recital. Photo credit: Ken Scarboro / Senior Photographer

Gary Pratt, director of jazz studies, performs a solo for students, faculty and the general public at the Jazz Faculty Recital. Photo credit: Ken Scarboro / Senior Photographer

Although the event is usually exclusive to faculty, the concert featured two special guest artists. Michael Ragonese, senior jazz studies major, and Brijesh Pandya, 2011 CSUN alumnus.

Before the recital began Ragonese and Pandya played meter music with CSUN Jazz faculty, Katisse Buckingham. Buckingham invited them to play the same form of odd metered jazz pieces on stage.

“Until recently, I used to get really nervous when I played with people who are on such a higher level than me. I would be really tense and that would hurt my sound,” said Pandya, “Playing with [these] guys is still a humbling experience for me, but now that I’ve let go of a lot of fear, I’m able to have a good time and enjoy the music that we create together.”

One of the prominent musicians Pandya shared the stage with is guitarists John Pisano. Pisano’s performance was welcomed onstage by Matt Harris, music professor and co-director of Jazz studies.Harris introduced Pisano as a historical figure in jazz books.

“Jazz is one of the few art forms that involves improvisation. Listening and playing with each other makes every performance different,” said Harris.

The audience cheered and clapped in the middle of songs when a musician played a complex piece of music or began to improvise. Students heads were bobbing,  shoulders swaying, and feet were tapping to the music.

CSUN student Tiffany Lantello, junior music media composition major, said she was interested in seeing her first jazz faculty performance after hearing good things about the jazz program.

“Jazz is one of the most competitive fields,” said Lantello. “People want to be in this Jazz program.”

The names of the faculty that performed are as follows:

Howie Shear – Trumpet

Darek Oles – Double Bass

John Pisano – Guitar

Rob Lockart – Saxophone

Gary Fukushima – Piano

Matt Harris – Piano

Gene Coye – Drums

Katisse Buckingham – Saxophone

Nick Mancini – Vibraphone

Gary Pratt – Double Bass