When you think of “college band ensemble,” what images flash into your mind? Do you see traditional marching uniforms present amidst a rowdy football game during halftime? Or perhaps you envision serious black-tie affairs and students who take the music, and themselves, much too seriously.
Not so with the College of William and Mary’s Wham Bam Big Band, a jazz ensemble started by Marc Presler ’10. With its impeccable understanding that jazz is all about capturing feeling, this energetic group may very well be on its way to a promising explosion of praise with the debut of its appropriately titled first album, “The Big Bang!”
The 12 tracks included in the CD showcase the group’s raw talent and apparent love for performance, which seep out from each tune. The group also displays a wide and an eclectic taste for jazz culture with covers of timeless classics such as Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine” and Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” while creating fresh jazz spins on songs outside the genre a la The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” and “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc. Poignant vocal solos throughout the CD also offer a smooth but nonetheless impressive listening experience.
The CD exemplifies the improvisational style of jazz in the not-so-perfectly rhythmic measures of each song. “Groovin’ Hard” captures the offbeat tempos of trombone, bass, and piano, tied together by a soulful saxophone solo. The catchy trumpet lines ensure that the song will remain in the heads of anyone who cares to listen.
Signature sultry jazz classics are hard to resist after listening to a couple of the faster paced songs on the album. “Summertime” evokes the sleepy bygone era of George Gershwin and Ella Fitzgerald. The slower pace is parodied by the somber trombones that take eternity to woefully mope their way through the song in a humorous way only trombones can. The band’s rendition of “Here’s That Rainy Day,” famously performed by the legendary Frank Sinatra, is also taken at a much slower tempo, accentuated by the steady strumming of the bass — the lifeline of the song. Piano and trumpets add a graceful touch during interludes.
The Wham Bam Big Band’s casual approach to music only strengthens the experience of listening. Traces of conversations and count-outs at the beginning and end of each song give the music a much more candid and organic feel, a refreshing change from the overly produced and sanitized music of today.
The album is filled with the kind of music that not only sends good vibes throughout the body, but also makes the listener want to literally get up and start dancing. Its genuine passion in representing an underappreciated art form make it a perfect choice for anyone looking for something new.
The CD costs $10 and can be ordered by sending an e-mail to [email protected]