With closed eyes, one might not notice the large age gap among some of the players in the jazz ensemble and jazz combo classes.

The classes comprise mostly first-year students, who have been learning familiar jazz standards such as Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon” and Miles Davis’ “All Blues.” However, two Denison faculty and staff members, both with years of experience under their belts, have been learning the tunes alongside the students in a typical class setting.

“What really delights me about this semester’s band is that it is mostly first-years, and they are so full of talent. The future of Denison jazz is bright.”

The Jazz combo and Jazz Ensemble classes, led by director Pete Mills, will have a joint concert in Sharon Martin Hall on April 23rd at 7:00 pm. Seats will be open to Denison students, faculty and staff and the event will be recorded and available for viewing after the concert.

Chosen pieces will feature arrangements of tunes that are standard in the jazz tradition and will also utilize open solo sections for students to work on their improvisation skills. The concert will also feature two members who are not Denison students: Staff member Stephen Krak on tenor sax (quoted above) in the ensemble and faculty member Erik Augis on piano as a featured artist in both groups. Krak is the Coordinator for the Red Frame Lab on campus and has been playing tenor saxophone since fifth grade. Mills asked him to join the band for this semester.

“I have worked with Steve when I directed the Columbus Community Jazz Band, a group organized through the Jazz Arts Group, and he is very kind to be a part of our group and is contributing with great musicianship,” Mills said.

Augis teaches jazz and classical piano lessons and Intro to Piano I and intro to Piano II at Denison and has worked as a professional musician and teacher since graduating from college. He is a new faculty member.

“Erik and I have played together for many years. He is part of my ‘house band’ at a weekly jam session gig I have at The Park Street Tavern in Columbus.”

The ensemble class is the larger of the two groups and focuses more on the technicalities of balancing harmonies and sounds with more instruments.

The combo class is smaller and works to learn the stylistic traits of small group music, including improvisation, inflection, and phrasing.

“Combo is where we try to work on our own arrangements of tunes, and I am hopeful that everyone is open to taking chances during rehearsals and in the concert,” Mills said.

Ari Rubin ‘24 is the drummer for both groups and has played in both since last semester. He said he is appreciative of the expertise that the faculty/staff bring to the band and is excited to play new charts in the upcoming concert.

“I like the music we’re playing. It’s cool that we’re varying up the genres and a lot of the tunes are really energetic which I like,” he said.

Mills, who in a typical year is himself involved in plentiful amounts of live shows and performances, said he is excited for the Denison community to enjoy live music during such a tumultuous year.

“This whole year has been great. Teaching ‘in person’ and being able to make music this year […] has been a real gift. I am fortunate to be here at [Denison].”

Jazz Concert April 23, 7:00 pm, Sharon Martin Hall in the Eisner Center. Open to Denison Students, Faculty and Staff and advanced tickets required.

April 14, 2021