A Night of Jazz at the Fritz


Daniel Yun

Wyatt Tuner belts out a guitar solo during Monday’s UND Jazz Ensemble concert.

Stephanie Hollman, Staff Writer

On Monday night, an audience of students, parents and supporters of the music department took a break from the rain by filling the Chester Fritz auditorium to listen to the smooth musicians of the UND Jazz band. This night had been the accumulation of a semester’s worth of individual practice and group rehearsals, and it was evident in their performing and showmanship that the group, as a whole, is passionate about music.

Directors Brian Pfeifer and Robert Brooks were excellent conductors who passionately led each group through a diversity of songs, as well as personable hosts with anecdotes that charmed the audience. They gave a background and a preview of some of the songs that were played, which was helpful to those who may not be very familiar with the many variations of Jazz music.

The entire performance was exceptional because it showcased many different types of Jazz, which is often stereotyped by outsiders of the genre as just a bluesy type of instrumental music.

Pfeifer began the concert with a Duke Ellington classic, “In a Mellow Tone.” The elegant jazz standard was the right choice that eased the audience into the world of jazz.  Within seconds, and for the rest of the entire night, feet began tapping and heads began bobbing. The second song played, “Hit the Bricks,”  featuring ensemble sections and highlighted skills of  the trumpet, saxophone and percussion soloists.

The first section performed another standard that incorporated a funky tune: “Little Sunflower.” Pfeiffer ended with Hayburner, which, he described as not necessarily a monumental composition in the world of Jazz, but was still a good listen. “Not every piece in my mind has to be groundbreaking,” he said, “This whole album exemplifies the ‘big band’ sound and just makes you feel good.”

The performance of the second section followed a similar set list in terms of genre in the order of the song selection. Brooks chose to open with the standard, “Bye Bye Blackbird,” which showcased the percussion section with its upbeat tempo and saxophones Ryan Adler and Marcie Woehl, who had performed earlier this semester as part of the smaller Jazz combo.

An interesting song choice followed, titled “Beyond the Limit,” that had no percussion. “This one’s a little different,” Pfeiffer previewed, “It steps out of the normal jazz.

“It doesn’t have that ‘1,2,3,4’ count going on and there isn’t a baseline here.”

Had Brooks not explained this, I, the layperson with limited musical knowledge, would not have guessed this piece was even closely related to jazz music. Nonetheless, it was catchy and exemplified the diversity within the genre.

The songs were performed by two talented sections and highlighted the individual musical skills of many soloists. Cassie Walth, along with her mother, drove for four hours from Bismarck to watch her sister, Jessica, perform the trombone with the first section.

“I really enjoyed the solos,” Jessica said, “It was really interesting to hear the variety of sounds of the different instruments.”

For many of the soloists, this was their final performance before graduating in a month and Jazz as an extracurricular has been a big part of their UND experience. Peter Monsrud, a business major who has been with the band since his freshman year, was a trumpet soloist for the first section. “Jazz band is so much fun. It’s 50 minutes, three days a week where I can go to distress and relax,” Monsrud reflects, “When I’m there, it doesn’t feel like a class. It’s just a great group of people who enjoy life and making music together.”

This jazz concert was a great example of one of the many free opportunities to listen to quality music by the university’s music department. Not only would you support the department and the musicians whose performances is the result of all their dedication to their craft, but would also enhance your experiences with different genres of music. With this Monday night performance, the band dove into jazz, and in doing so, surprised the audience by showing them just how diverse a genre of music can be.

Daniel Yun
Marcie Woehl performs a solo during the UND Jazz Ensemble conceert Monday night.

Stephanie Hollman is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]