While present day audiences missed the birth of jazz by a century and more, eastern North Carolinians regularly witness the birth of a new generation of jazz players via the East Carolina University School of Music Jazz Studies concerts. The most recent of these events, "Jazz at Christinne's with TomtheJazzman," took place on November 11 at Christinne's Seafood Grille and Chophouse in the Greenville Hilton. This long-running series showcases student musicians in small combos and gives them professional performing experience in a cabaret-style setting.
As has become customary, the candlelight, table linens, and exceptional cuisine of Christinne's provided the backdrop for the evening, to which was added Public Radio East personality and jazz aficionado Tom Mallison, who emcees and lends his brand to the series. Three combos performed, and selections included standards such as "There Is No Greater Love," "Ceora," "Cherokee," "I'm Beginning to See the Light," and "What's New?"
The first group, led by student Andy Kropp, opened with a dynamic rendition of "I'm Beginning to See the Light." "Body and Soul" featured the lovely vocals of Rachel Howard, followed by Kropp and [Michael] Crenshaw, who cooked on "One Note Samba."
The Croom Ensemble, the second to perform, gave a particularly memorable performance of "Strasbourg St. Denis." Jamin Croom's confident bass solo at the top of the chart set the stage for exceptionally well-played sax trio sections. The group followed with "Take the 'A' Train," and came alive (as did the audience) when Professor Carroll V. Dashiell, Jr., director of the ECU jazz ensembles, slipped in from backstage during the piece to join them on piano.
The final group led by pianist Alex Taub, included trumpet, tenor sax, double bass, guitar and drums, and vocalists on three selections. Olivia Johnson displayed a comfortable stage presence and vocal maturity on "But For You," and Tevin Johnson gave a strong performance of "There Will Never Be Another You." Alden Quick and Marvin Thorne — and his scat trombone! — sang as a duet for the final vocal selection. The ensemble closed the evening with Horace Silver's "Nica's Dream," a demanding work, played well.
The musicianship and spirit of these instrumentalists was professional and convincing. No doubt the audience was left wanting more and this series provides that opportunity. At one point emcee Tom Mallison said that he recognized many "regulars" in the audience, and it seems many are members of the ECU Foundation/Friends of Jazz. What a wonderful symbiotic relationship, that those who enjoy this series not only witness but support the emergence of the upcoming generation of jazz musicians!
2012 dates for Jazz at Christinne's with TomtheJazzman: Friday, February 17, Friday, March 23, and Friday, April 20. For details, see our calendar.