Periodically, I get notifications from the University of Puget Sound about lectures, plays, and concerts. My wife Peggy and I met at UPS and love attending the art gallery, plays, and musicals when we can. Just a week or so before the last note, I forwarded information on a Chinese composer who was going to be an artist in residence at UPS and who was performing, to a friend from Rotary who is Chinese. A few days later I saw information on a jazz concert celebrating the 100th anniversaries of three American jazz greats: Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, and Ella Fitzgerald. They were all born in 1917.
We have a loose knit group of friends that gather for dinner on many Friday evenings. The jazz concert was on a Friday evening. It seemed like a natural for a late September evening of entertainment. Tickets were very inexpensive: General Admission $15, and Seniors $10.
I remember as a teenager in 1960 I joined the Columbia Record Club in conjunction with my cousin Lindy. Very exclusive. One of my first purchases was for Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, and Johnny Cash record albums. I had no idea who Dizzy Gillespie was, but Maynard G. Krebs, the beatnik and lay-about from the TV show The Many Loves of Dobby Gillis, was always mentioning Dizzy Gillespie as if he were a god. I played the album once on each side. It was beyond me, but I may still have the album.
What appealed to me in the notice was Ella Fitzgerald. Peg has most of Ella’s recorded songs and quite often they are playing from the kitchen CD player as she creates calligraphy, reads the newspapers, or prepares dinner. I only had to mention Ella and Peg was eager for the concert. For one of our friends it was Thelonious Monk that cosed the deal. I ordered fourteen tickets.
Since we usually gather for a meal, we met at the UPS cafeteria for dinner. The food was hit and miss, but the price was right. For Peg and me, our trays of food totaled less than $15. Next time I would pass on the fried ravioli. But, I really enjoyed the Mac n’ Cheese, the potato skins, and the pepperoni pizza. Everyone else seemed pleased with their food (salads and healthy wraps) . . . and it certainly made me appreciate the fact that my college years were behind me.
After dinner we went across campus to Schneebeck Hall for the concert. Actually, our friend Rob hustled over to get in line for the festival seating tickets. The hall was been remodeled and made handicap friendly . . . it could have been friendlier, however. The aisles in the theater have narrow steps. Peg’s sister Pat, using a walker and still healing from back surgery, stopped at the first row of seats. As a dutiful younger sister, Peg stayed with her. I wished them luck and went front row center.
I joined three friends. We were laughing had having a good time, but I noticed two guys behind us were a little worried, so I said, “We quiet down.” They laughed and nodded.
At plays, boxing matches, and concerts I always choose to be in the front row. Forget the best focal and audio position as being in the middle of the house. I go for up close and personal.
I expected to enjoy the songs that Dawn Padula sang and then put up with the other tunes. There were a dozen songs, one intermission, and no encore. I was wrong. From the “Get go” I was transfixed and amazed. The “Old Guard,” the professionals were simply outstanding. Dr. Dawn Paula is currently Associate Professor of Voice and Director of Vocal Studies at the University of Puget Sound School of Music. She is a mezzo-soprano, but performs in many different venues other than just opera. She is married to Rob Hutchinson, professor of music theory and composition at UPS. He composes and plays a mean bass. He acted as the emcee. He seemed really proud of his wife. Tracy Knoop has roots in big band, most notably for me are Louis Bellson and Buddy Rich. Bill Anschell is also a composer. He played many of the piano pieces we heard. I’ll mention the drummer last, Andre Thomas. Drummers have the toughest job of almost any band. They have to show up first and get their kits set up and tuned. When the gig is over, they are the last to leave, because they have to take their kits apart and pack them up. Whatever they paid Andre for the evening, he was well worth it. I think each member of the Old Guard are available with their own groups or together as we saw them.
My favorite musician for the evening was Tracy Knoop. He played alto Saxophone. I played alto from the fifth grade through my senior year at Clover Park in both the concert band and orchestra. I was named to the All Puget Sound Orchestra my senior year and I never . . . ever . . . played any note that sounded as good as all of Tracy’s. Tracy was a treat to watch. He looked as if he enjoyed every second he was on stage. In the front row I could see his legs and feet. Tracy bent over backwards and forward. I swear I could see his left knee rise up six or seven inches to the musical beat and yet his foot never left the stage. People from three or four rows back missed out on his foot action.
Okay . . . now the students. They were all fantastic. Graduating in 2018 will be Zach Armstrong. He was tall and thin with a crop of curly red hair. In a jazz concert, his trumpet had a lot of work to do. Peg really appreciated his work from the back row of the concert hall. Nic Casey played jazz violin. It’s my new favorite instrument. Gabe Grabova played piano on two Thelonious Monk compositions. Very nice . . . very nice. I think we all loved the Afro-Cuban beat.
My favorite song was A Night in Tunisia, written by Dizzy Gillespie and featuring Knoop, Anschell, Hutchinson, and Thomas. Students performing were Kate Hart on trumpet and William Miyahira with percussion.
The concert wasn’t a sell out, but it sure looked like an almost full house. The music wasn’t what I expected. There were friends in the audience we didn’t expect to see and we certainly got our money’s worth. We will return.