All That Jazz

By: Samuel Silverman Staff Writer

Those who braved the pouring rain on Tuesday, November 23 to hear The Big Beat band play hard-bop music at the Thanksgiving Jazz Concert at the M.C. Recital Hall were in for a treat. The audience of over 50 people ranged from elementary school students to seniors.

While The Big Beat Band has played at the Thanksgiving Jazz Concert annually for over ten years, the group has been together for the past 30 years. The band started when Big Beat band’s leader, Bob Offutt, graduated from college and decided to put together his own group. The band has played at the college twice a year. The second concert is in February. The Big Beat band also produced a CD in 2008 called Introducing the Big Beat.

The band is composed of a frontline of trumpet/flugelhorn, played by Bob Offutt, and saxophone, played by Wayne Hovis. The band has a rhythm section composed of piano, played by Jim Moulder, bass, played by Ward Harris and drums, played by Mike “Mo” Morrison. Bassist Ward Harris is a Professor of Music at MC, teaching classes such as Listening to Music.

Hard-bop style of music is a mixture of bebop with blues and gospel influences. Hard-bop music emerged during the 1950s. The people who are considered the fathers of hard-bop music are Horace Silver and Art Blakey.

Before each song, Ward Harris gave an explanation about the song’s background. The audience laughed when he introduced “Room 608,” stating, “We are not allowed to know what happened in Room 608 that inspired this song.” He explained his hope that the “Work Song” would bring work like a rain dance brings rain. He noted the song “Gregory Is Here,” written by Horace Silver, was named after Silver’s son, Gregory. Offutt had to contact Gregory to get permission to record the song “Gregory Is Here” for the CD. The song “Kozo’s Waltz,” written by Lee Morgan, was named after Morgan’s dog. The last song, “It’s You or No One,” was played as a medley. The first part of the medley was “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow.” Sammy Cahn wrote the lyrics for both of these songs. Many of the songs in the program featured solos of trumpet, saxophone, drums or piano. It seemed that not only the audience enjoyed the concert, but so did the band members themselves. You could tell by observing them nodding their heads at each other and smiling as they each performed their solo in turn.

The audience’s reaction to the concert was very positive. Audience member Michael Tizale said, “This is my first concert and it is really nice to sit here and listen to music, especially Jazz.” After the concert, members of the audience lingered to talk to the musicians and tell them how much they enjoyed their music.

Harris’s view on music is that, “Music, more than anything else that I have experienced, reflects the essence of the human spirit.”

More information on music at MC can be found at “cms.montgomerycollege.edu/edu/department4.aspx?id=13919.”

For more information of The Big Beat Band and their music see “www.thebigbeat5.com.”