Last evening I had the pleasure to attend a fabulous concert by the Northwestern University Summer Jazz Band, conducted by Christopher Madsen, in the Regenstein Recital Hall of the Bienen School of Music. Wending my way through the construction detours, I had no idea what to expect about the venue, the quality of the performance or what the program included. None of that mattered: the band is terrific.
Maestro Madsen led his 18-piece band through seven or eight pieces composed variously by Duke Ellington, Johnny Hodges, Oliver Nelson, Jeff Jarvis, Ann Ronell and Sammy Nestico. Madsen introduced each selection with a enough background information to help the unfamiliar listener appreciate the composition. (This was especially appreciated in advance of Ellington’s Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue.) I watched Madsen as he guided his group through each composition; his easygoing nature, joy in his work and respect for his musicians was evident even to a novice. Most of the band members soloed at one point or another during the evening’s performance, and the audience of 200+ responded enthusiastically. The only downside was this community band only performs once a year–we are all forced to wait until then for more big band joy.