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click here to read an overview of the 2005 Williamstown Jazz Festival

click here to read a review of the Charles Llyod Quartet at the Williamstown Jazz Festival

SCCC Jazz Ensemble

Dr. William Meckley, Director

Shawn Bazylewicz
Tyler Merriam
Jeff Nania
Joe Janack
Donna Sobel
Kevin Santo

Mike Dietlein
Mike Banewicz
Zachary Gnomes
Dave Carkner
Michael Graves

Lauren Hannah
Tim Dickinson
Bryan Brundige
Dan Havranek

Chad Christman, drums
Brad Closson, bass
Shaun McCarthy, guitar
Sheray Michel, vibraphone, piano


Saturday, April 15, 2005

by R. Meacham

The centerpiece of the Williamstown Jazz Festival is the Annual Intercollegiate Jazz Festival. Six years ago, the college approached the town, Mass MoCA and others to expand the intercollegiate event into a full-blown multi day festival. At the beginning of the new millennium, the Williamstown Jazz Festival got underway joining the intercollegiate event in its tenth year. It could not have picked a better foundation. This fabulous event went two days and was free to the public. This is not a competition. The students participate to better the4mselves. Bands have the privilege of presenting a half hours worth of material to the two celebrity adjudicators. Then they receive a half hour of helpful pointers. The schools receive a video tape of their performance with the Adjudicators comments. The college is determined to provide the best judges possible. The strength of their choices has seen this part of the event grow steadily.

A good Adjudicator must be fair, positive and fun. Students need to be able to accept criticism in an atmosphere that is devoid of tension. The lighthearted yet thorough way this years judges conducted themselves was a prime example of that philosophy. This year’s adjudicators were Don Braden and Larry Ridley. “Mr. Braden has worked extensively as an educator teaching for the Litchfield Performing Arts, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, the North Netherlands Conservatory in Grongen, Holland and the William Paterson University. “ He has played as a sideman on nearly fifty Cds and twelve as a leader. He also spent four years as a composer for the “Cosby” show. Larry Ridley is “currently the Executive Director, African American Jazz Caucus of the International Association of Jazz Educators”. He has been a member of the music staff at Rutgers University since 1971. Since the fall of 2000, he has been the “Leader, Bassist and Artistic Director of the Jazz Legacy Ensemble.” Working together, they presented students with constructive criticism, compliments and infectious humor. It was a job well done.

Schenectady County Community College (SCCC) went on toward the end of the event. Only Skidmore and Williams colleges followed. Prior to them had been Friday’s presentation of Holyoke Community, Westfield State, and Rhode Island College. Brown University closed out the day. Saturday began with Smith and Amherst Colleges. The Community College of Rhode Island took us to lunch break. Worcester Polytechnical Institute and The Community College of Rhode Island #2 played just prior to SCCC. It had been a long event so far, with many performances and lots of feedback. It did not matter- SCCC was ready.

They had chosen “Such Sweet Thunder” by Ellington/Strayhorn, “Footprints” by Shorter/Arr. Matt Harris, “Passion Flower” by Strayhorn, “Lester Leaps In” by Young/ Arr. Gordon Goodwin and “Afro Blue” by Santamaria/ Arr. Michael Philip Mossman. Director Dr. William Meckley composed his students on stage, fired them up, let them go and TORE THE ROOF OFF. It was that simple. As they finished their finale tune, you could see it in the Judges faces- they were pleased!

Don Braden took the stage and told SCCC that they had “knocked him out”. It was a fantastic performance with incredible dynamics. He stood there and began pointing to all the members asking them who he thought his hero was. His finger circled the group until it came to rest on Sheray Michel, the vibraphone, piano and percussion player. Ironically, he did not pick her for her playing. He chose her because she danced to the incredible groove laid down during the performance. It was a point that he kept coming back to. “Never loose the groove.”

The judges thought the versions of “Sweet Thunder” and “Passion Flower” were fantastic. The students did great on “Lester Leaps In” needing only to clean up the rhythm section a bit. More dynamics were needed on “Afro Blue“. “Footprints” was the piece they chose to work on with the band. There they spent 15 minute improving the dynamics and loosening the rhythm section during the solos. It was here the Mr. Bradon was certain that reed player Jeff Nania was on the verge of becoming a very dangerous cat. They were just as impressed with the band as a whole. The fact that this group of freshman and sophomores played together so tightly was credit to everyone involved.

This was a job well done by a great group of students lead by a great teacher. The finale complement was given to Dr. Meckley. The judges felt he was a first rate conductor and that they were personally impressed with the report that was obvious between him and the band. No one could have said it better. Way to go SCCC!