Gustavus Jazz Lab Band
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Gustavus Jazz Lab Band

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Mar
30
Gustavus Jazz Lab Band @ TBA

Washington, District of Columbia, USA

Washington, District of Columbia, USA

Mar
30
Gustavus Jazz Lab Band @ The Fairfax

Fort Belvoir, Virginia, USA

Fort Belvoir, Virginia, USA

Mar
28
Gustavus Jazz Lab Band @ Neighborhood Church of Greenwich Village

New York, New York, USA

New York, New York, USA

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Music

Press


Gustavus’ jazz bands have traditionally been groups that the college can brag about, but according to Gustavus Jazz Lab Band Director Steve Wright, this year’s group has been one of, if not the best, he has directed during his 19 years at Gustavus.

On April 3, the Gustavus Jazz Lab Band got the chance to demonstrate its talents at the Eau Claire Jazz Festival alongside groups from St. Olaf College, Iowa State University and a number of Minnesota schools. In the last six times the Jazz Lab Band has performed at the competition, it has consistantly placed within the top three. Considering the high caliber of talent it was up against, it makes this year’s second place finish that much more impressive.

“[It] was a little disappointing, but the school that beat us was a music school. It would have been an embarrassment for them if they didn’t win,” said Senior Biology/Life Science Teaching Major Andrew Haaheim. Haaheim is the drummer for the Jazz Lab Band, and he, along with bandmates Jonathan Monk, Erik Mahon and Tom Oelfke, left the festival with an individual award for Outstanding Performer.

The festival performance came on the heels of the Jazz Lab Band’s week-long Spring Break tour across Wisconsin and Illinois, including a very special performance at a Chicago jazz club.

“During the tour we performed some of our greatest concerts, came back to have three rehearsals, which prepared us for an even better concert at the Eau Claire Jazz Festival,” said Monk, one of the group’s saxophonists and a sophomore geology and philosophy major.

“I’ve found that playing jazz generally creates an atmosphere that is laid back and where I can just have a … good time doing what I love. Eau Claire was definitely a good experience for us—we finally realized how good we actually are,” said Mahon, a trumpeter and a senior music honors major.

One of the things that makes Gustavus’ Jazz Lab Band unique is its relative lack of music majors when compared to similar groups at other schools. “I’m proud that we have become such a high caliber group, considering that there are only three music majors in the band,” said Oelfke, a trombonist and a junior biology major.

The Eau Claire Jazz Festival offers opportunities for groups to interact and learn from other jazz artists, some of them from the international scene. The competition consists of each band playing three pieces of contrasting natures and then being subjected to comments from judges. “We performed marvelously,” said Wright. “We received great comments from the judges, but I think they were hard pressed to find things for [the band] to improve on.”

Gustavus students and anybody else who’s interested will have the opportunity to hear the Jazz Lab Band perform during its home concert this Saturday, April 18 at 7:30 p.m. in Bjorling Hall. The performance will feature pieces by Thad James, Mark Taylor, Steve Wright and Thelonious Monk.

The Gustavus Chamber Singers and the Gustavus Jazz Ensemble will also be performing jointly in Bjorling Hall the following evening, Sunday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m., in a concert that will include works such as Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” and maybe even a Beatles tune or two.

“It’s great to be perpetuating a music that is unique to American art,” said Wright. “It’s truly a unique idiom to work in.”

Whether you’re a Herbie Hancock wannabe, a jazz connoisseur or a casual listener who feels in need of some grooving, the Gustavus Jazz Lab Band has plenty to offer to its audience.
- Variety article published April 17, 2009 by Ethan Marxhausen for Gustavian Weekly


Discography

The Gustavus Jazz Lab Band
"Taking Off"

Photos

Bio

The Gustavus Jazz Lab Band has been an ensemble with academic credit at Gustavus for over 30 years and provides a strong performance experience in big band jazz, jazz improvisation and related styles. In addition to fall and spring concerts and on-campus appearances, the group tours annually. In the past, the band has toured the Midwest extensively, as well as extended tours to the West Coast and a southern tour to New Orleans in 1998.

The 2001 Spring Tour took the Jazz Lab Band to the East Coast, performing in areas of New England, Boston, New York and Washington, D. C. In 2003, the band flew to Seattle and toured Washington State. Following their return, they were chosen to appear on a live broadcast of Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion radio show. The show was produced at Gustavus Adolphus College.

Over the years, guest artists have performed with the jazz ensembles, including Marvin Stamm, Dick Oatts, John Fedchock, Denis DeBlasio, Frank Mantooth, Allen Vizzutti and a number of Twin Cities jazz musicians. The Jazz Lab Band has recorded in studios in St. Paul, Nashville and Minneapolis. Their CD — Taking Off — was released in 2007 at a joint concert with Minneapolis South High School's jazz ensemble directed by Mr. Scott Carter. The performance was presented as a part of the Twin Cities Jazz Society's "Jazz from J to Z" concert series. Taking Off was recorded in the spring of 2006 -- in recording sessions before tour and at the spring jazz concert following their tour to the Denver, Colorado area. The CD was produced entirely at Gustavus, with session tracking by vocalist and sound engineer Alex Nelson. Steve Wright mixed and mastered the final recording. The cover art is a reproduction of a work by long time Professor of Art, Bruce McClain.

Dr. Steve Wright is a nationally known trumpeter, jazz arranger and composer. At Gustavus, he directs the Gustavus Jazz Lab Band and the Adolphus Jazz Ensemble, teaches Music Arranging and is the Trumpet Instructor. He also teaches January Term courses in Careers In Music, Music Software & Technology and Jazz History. Wright earned his BM degree from the University of Iowa and a MM and DMA from the University of Minnesota. His teachers have included John Beer, Vincent Cichowicz, Lloyd Geisler, Gary Bordner and David Baldwin.

A native of Burlington, Iowa, Steve Wright joined the United States Air Force Airmen of Note in 1968, playing both jazz and lead trumpet, as well as writing arrangements for the band. Since 1972, he has been a free-lance trumpeter, composer, arranger and music contractor in the Twin Cities.Wright has performed at Orchestra Hall for many years with the Orchestra Hall Big Band and the Minnesota Orchestra on occasional pops concerts. He has recorded numerous films, TV and radio commercials and albums and has played lead trumpet for such performers as Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peggy Lee, Rosemary Clooney, Johnny Mathis, Joe Williams and Ray Charles among others. Dr.Wright is an Accent Musical Instruments artist-clinician and performs as a guest artist with high school and college bands and jazz ensembles.