The weather is getting warmer, the grass is getting greener, and Front Porch Society kicked off the spring season with their event March Jazzness. As the name indicates, this is FPS’s annual jazz festival held in the Wren Great Hall. In recent years, jazz has seen a revival in the music world as many modern artists employ jazz chords and techniques in their music. Artists such as Lake Street Dive and Lianne La Havas are great examples of this phenomenon and have led the way for jazz to take hold yet again.
Last Saturday, FPS hosted three bands, the Wham Bam Little Band, The Nosmo Kings and Harris Simon Trio, in order to pay tribute to both modern and traditional styles of jazz. All three groups were off-the-charts phenomenal, and each band brought something a little different to the table with their style of jazz.
We kicked off the event with Wham Bam Little Band, which is comprised of the electric guitar, electric bass, drums and keyboard. The instrumentation of this band is what automatically had me hooked. When I think of jazz, I think of a double bass player strumming away or maybe a saxophone or muted trumpet accompanied by a classy pianist who effortlessly floats the night away. However, the modernization of instruments did not at all take away from the beauty of the music. In fact, the instruments are what made the set even more unique.
As a piano player myself, I was most mesmerized by the WBLB’s pianist. The way in which he executed difficult runs with seemingly no effort or the way that he incorporated complex chords gave the group that much more pizzazz. The group also added in some hints of African and salsa music into their set. They ranged from fast to slow and from upbeat to somber, but all in all, they gave the whole set their best and we were not disappointed.
The next band, the Nosmo Kings, also came in with their own unique sound accompanied by a vocal part. I was a bit wary as the band started, but soon all my worries dissipated. The vocalist not only added a new instrument, but also engaged the crowd and made the event more dynamic with her commentary. She also succeeded in adding in several difficult melodies and boo-bops. In addition to the vocalist, I found the drummer to be quite mesmerizing. I’ve personally never taken much note of drum rhythms unless they stood out, and on this occasion, the drummer more than stood out with his jazzy and upbeat drum rhythms.
We ended the night with the Harris Simon trio. Harris Simon is a jazz professor here at the College of William and Mary, but performs with Brian Solser on the double bass and Kevin Gaines on the drums in this trio. This trio was much more traditional than the other two bands, but what made them spectacular was the way in which they were able to improvise so easily. The band played for over an hour, but only performed seven songs. This, my friends, is the sign of a true jazz band. These seasoned performers went on musical tangent after tangent, crossing between bass and piano solos. Simon effortlessly added in chromatic jazz melodies to complex jazz melodies and the crowd loved it. It was a sensory overload, but in the best way possible.
The event as a whole was a success. The performers nailed it, and spring was brought in quite beautifully. Look out for future FPS events in the coming weeks, and make sure to come out to March Jazzness next year!