Splashy cymbals and smooth melodies filled the ninth annual Oregon Jazz Festival Jan. 24 and 25.
For nine years, Lane and the University of Oregon have collaborated for this event.
Festival directors Ron Bertucci and Steve Owens built the Oregon Jazz Festival from the ground up. Their vision was to create a celebration where students, scholars and fans can come together to appreciate the art of jazz.
Bertucci said the two directors decided to join forces in 2005. Before that, each school had its own jazz event under a different name. After integrating, the resources of the festival grew.
Since then, Lane instructor and original composer Paul Krueger has taken over as director of the Lane Jazz Ensemble.
“It’s really great to have Paul at Lane. He’s a great person,” Owen said.
Student musicians of all skill levels come from all over the region to represent their schools’ programs. During the day, these ensembles are judged personally by a board of qualified professionals. After critiquing the bands, the professionals lead clinics and workshops for the students, Owens said.
“It’s a huge learning experience,” Lane student and jazz trombonist Cassidee Fosback said.
The clinicians divide the students into their ensembles, and the students are given feedback on their performances.
“We couldn’t ask for a better situation with guest artists,” Krueger said.
Just after lunch, the participants are divided one more time — this time, according to the specific instruments they play. The students are then again schooled in techniques that will benefit them when the judges are scoring for points. However, that is not what this festival is about, Owens said.
“We want to reward people that do exceptional work. Nothing about our festival is a competition,” he said.
At the end of each day, entertainment was provided by participating schools. On the first night, the Lane Jazz Ensemble opened with a display of smooth jazz.
“The students are making great progress, and they put together a great performance,” Krueger said.
The Oregon Jazz Ensemble followed with a crisp, uptempo, poppy style that had the audience tapping their feet. Owens maintained a similar laid-back style.
As both bands played, guest instructors jammed personally improvised solos. This style is integral to jazz, as the performances are jam sessions as much as they are concerts.
On the second night, scholarships were awarded and the top two jazz bands took the stage as openers for the headliner, Kneebody, a progressive, electronic-infused jazz band out of Los Angeles.
The band usually consists of five members. However, the band’s saxaphone player couldn’t make the performance. It was up to a quartet — bassist, keyboardist, drummer and trumpeter — to pick up the slack.
After Kneebody’s set, the audience roared chants for an encore. The band was happy to oblige.