The Ouachita Jazz Band Keeps Things Swinging

December 8, 2022

By Camryn Manning, Staff Writer

November 22, 2022

On Monday, November 14, the Ouachita Jazz band held their first concert of the year. It was a huge success and covered a variety of genres of music, including swing, bebop, blues, funk, rock and samba. This was several students’ last concerts with Ouachita Jazz; seniors Graham Scarborough (tenor saxophone) and Josh Sutton (alto saxophone) will both be student teaching next semester. The group had been preparing this concert all semester, and their hard work and dedication shone through on the night of the performance.

   Scarborough has been a member of the jazz band since his freshman year.

“Jazz has always been a big part of my life. My dad showed me jazz when I was really young and it always resonated with me,” he said.

Scarborough has been extremely active in the Ouachita jazz scene, playing with the band, in combo groups, on his instrument and as a singer.

“Jazz gives me a way to speak my mind through music, something not offered by traditional musical means,” he said.

With an abundance of improvisation solos in this last concert, Scarborough was able to truly captivate and communicate with his audience through the notes on his saxophone.

“My biggest inspiration for soloing is my jazz playlist. It’s 74+ hours long, and I listen to it daily. I had so many songs I quoted in my solos, but among my favorites were some Star Wars themes and an old standard called Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” Scarborough said.

Out of all the songs the jazz band played Monday, “Shiny Stockings” was Scarborough’s personal favorite, since it’s a jazz standard he had always wanted to play. To Scarborough, “Yardbird Suite” was by far the most difficult, since the bebop genre is difficult to play. Bebop comes from an era that professional jazz musicians tried to set themselves apart from the amateurs, and the fast rhythms and keeping-on-your-toes feel to most bebop songs makes it difficult for any musician to tackle. Out of all the genres, funk is Scarborough’s favorite, because “the blues scale is so easy to shred a solo on.” With Scarborough’s time in Ouachita Jazz coming to an end, he commented on the lessons learned while in the group.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that music happens in the little moments. It’s not always about the concert. Sometimes the rehearsals are where you truly learn what music is all about,” he said.

Senior Josh York plays bass guitar and trumpet in the jazz band, and plans to continue to participate in the band next semester.

“I joined jazz band because I loved it in High School and wanted to continue in college. I also joined the Ouachita jazz band because of Dr. Hamilton. I first met Dr. Hamilton at the TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) Convention in San Antonio, Texas the spring semester of my junior year of high school. Later that semester, the Ouachita Jazz band was on tour and visited my school. I loved Dr. Hamilton and the jazz band from the start, and I joked with a few of the trumpets that I would be joining them someday. Those very trumpets became great friends! After that visit I applied to Ouachita and took a tour of the campus a few weeks later and I loved it! Dr. Hamilton and the jazz band played a big role in my decision to go to OBU as a whole,” York said.

Playing a unique role in the band, York alternates between both playing trumpet and playing bass guitar, getting experience in both the rhythm section and the winds section of the band. His favorite song at this concert was “Z’Up Dude.” Though not playing bass on this song, York said, “I loved seeing freshman Landon DiMaio play the great bass line and end the entire concert with a crazy solo.”

When asked about what he likes to play the most, York said, “My favorite genre of jazz to play is probably swing. That is because my favorite thing to do on bass is a walking bass line. However, I also like funk, and my friends in jazz band sometimes jokingly call me ‘The Funkmeister’.”

A longtime member of the Ouachita Jazz band, York has come away with much more than he started with. He said, “The biggest lesson I have learned in jazz band is that you can always improve and get better. In high school, I did not have to practice jazz band music as much I should have, because I thought it was not difficult. When I got to Ouachita, I quickly learned that the music was quite harder, and I still had a lot to learn and improve on.”

The livestream of the jazz band’s fall concert is available online. The next performance of the Ouachita Jazz band will be their Christmas feature at Dr. Jack’s Coffeehouse in the next few weeks. 

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