The Suffolk Journal

Banding together through jazz: Suffolk Jazz Band plays at “Ramsgiving”

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Banding together through jazz: Suffolk Jazz Band plays at “Ramsgiving”

Mitch Bruehwiler / Photo Editor

Mitch Bruehwiler / Photo Editor

Mitch Bruehwiler / Photo Editor

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There were eleven of them, clad in black and maroon shirts in front of a scrim in the Somerset Café. A saxophonist, two trumpets, two string players, a trombonist, two percussionists, a bassist, guitarist and keyboardist.

Together, they make up the Suffolk University Jazz Band. The Jazz Band is currently an underclassman affair; eight of its members are either new or only in their second year.

They performed at Program Council’s annual “Ramsgiving” Tuesday evening, a pre-Thanksgiving celebration where members of the Suffolk community come together to enjoy various seasonal dishes and chat about what they’re thankful for.

Every one of them is united in their passion for music, but they are a diverse group. Three are women, two on strings and one on trumpet.

Coming off of their last gig, the inauguration of President Marisa Kelly, members who spoke to The Journal before the concert were excited about the trajectory of the group.

“We have two other gigs lined up; one of them is the Fall Showcase,” said sophomore Gabe Moran in an interview with The Suffolk Journal.

For Juan Gutierrez, a sophomore sociology major who was trained at Boston Arts Academy, jazz is part of who he is. At Boston Arts, he studied jazz for four years. He was an integral part of Zumix, an “East Boston-based nonprofit organization dedicated to building our community through music and creative technology,” according to their website.

“Since Suffolk doesn’t have a music or an education program, I knew I wanted to go back into my community, especially with Zumix,” Gutierrez said.

The group did not disappoint in their second gig of the year. The horn players, Dorian Brown and Ally Leeming on trumpet, and Shane Halajkl on saxophone, contorted their faces as they blew tempered notes above the beat. The chemistry between members of the rhythm section, guitarist Paul Galli, keyboardist Kevin Woei A Tsoi, bassist Gutierrez and percussionists Moran and Imad Coulibaly, was undeniable.

“I like jazz because it lets me express myself,” Brown told The Journal. “Jazz is knowing what you’re going to play without knowing.”

Christina Hickey, violinist, had never played jazz before coming to Suffolk.

They smiled at each other as Gutierrez slapped out the opening notes of Herbie Hancock’s classic “Chameleon.” The trumpets blared the refrain. Sophomore trombonist Spencer Notinger delivered a rousing solo. Halfway through, the song took a decisively swingy track. It was a well-received take on a classic. The drums sped up, and Galli ripped a solo over an increasingly angsty percussion ensemble.

As the leads rejoined the song, they all had this knowing look on their faces. They were in sync. They were in top form. They were, above all, having fun.

“Thanks to the jazz band for performing for you all,” announced Christina Rayball, Spring Traditions chair for Program Council.

A raucous round of applause broke out from the back of the room as their junior vocalist Amy Koczera traded her viola for a microphone and began to belt out Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie.” True to form, it was a jazzy take on another classic tune. Shortly thereafter, Galli improvised a bit. Saxophonist Halajkl took over from there.  

Halajkl, a sophomore, said that the group vibes really well together. “We have a really good group, and have been able to pull some stuff together because of it,” he said in an interview with The Suffolk Journal. Halajkl has been playing saxophone “on and off for four or five years.” He’s played other instruments, but picked up saxophone his sophomore year of high school.

“We have a tight synergy,” remarked Woei A Tsoi, a freshman. He’s been playing keyboard for about five years.

As Woei A Tsoi left the stage to take a break, Gutierrez began to slap a speedy bass line. He and Moran smirked at each other as they laid down some backing tracks that echoed throughout the concrete building.

As the show came to a close, the band performed a soulful rendition of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.” Koczera made it look easy.

“There’s no other ensembles at Suffolk that I could play my instrument in,” Hickey said. “When I went up to the Jazz Band and said I played violin, they were psyched.”

The Jazz Band plays next on Nov. 27 at the Caribbean Student Union Thanksgiving Luncheon from 12:15 to 1:30 on the fourth floor of Sawyer. The show promises to bring the same level of enthusiasm and talent as their last performance.

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About the Writer
Nick Viveiros, Staff Writer

Nick Viveiros is a sophomore majoring in Politics, Philosophy & Economics and Journalism. He began writing for the Journal in the fall and looks forward...

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Banding together through jazz: Suffolk Jazz Band plays at “Ramsgiving”