BYU is getting ready for a special throwback featuring the sounds of New Orleans traditional jazz.
The Jazz Legacy Dixieland Band will hold a free concert Thursday, May 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Madsen Recital Hall. The show will preview the material the band will perform during its month – long tour in New Orleans this spring.
Recent BYU graduate in jazz performance Brian Woodbury plays the trombone, and said the New Orleans tour will be his last time performing with the band. He described New Orleans traditional jazz as the type of music Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton and contemporaries performed.
“I think its a little more free than a lot of styles because we do collective improvisation,” Woodbury said. “Austie (Robinson) will be playing the melody, and I’ll be making up a counter melody; Jory (Woodis) will be making something up too.”
Woodbury said even though this style of music commonly performed in concerts today, he thinks it’s meant to be played with people “hootin’ and hollering” while dancing in the streets.
The Jazz Legacy Dixieland Band is led by music professor Steve Call. He has 37 years of experience teaching jazz studies, tuba, euphonium and jazz piano at BYU.
Call started teaching tuba at BYU part time in 1979. He organized a group of students to form the Dixieland Band in 1980, but at the time it was not for academic credit.
The band used to play at the Cougar Club meetings before football games, and at private parties for the president of the university as well as other events.
Eventually the Jazz Dixieland band became part of the curriculum in the late 80’s and Call accepted a full time position teaching. The band has been invited to play at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. They are also four-time winners of the Sacramento Collegiate Traditional Jazz Festival.
“Its kind of rare for young people to play this music, its kind of a unique thing. Its been a mission of mine to preserve the music and develop ways of teaching jazz,” Call said.
Parker Speirs, another recent BYU graduate said he enjoyed learning more about the tradition of jazz while playing in the band.
Speirs said he plans to pursue a career as a professional musician after the New Orleans tour. He currently plays in local artist Mimi Knowles’ band. He focuses more on playing guitar and bass in his professional career, but said he enjoys playing the banjo in the Jazz Dixieland band.
A senior studying music education Zoë Jorgenson has been a member of the group for the past three years. She said the connections she has made with fellow band members while on tour have made her experience most meaningful.
“We go to the traditional jazz festival (in Sacramento), and this past September we played in a professional festival,” Jorgenson said. “It wasn’t a student festival, and being able to play with a bunch of other professional bands was awesome.”
Jorgenson said she is excited to share their music with audiences at the free concert this week.
“I think people kind of write off jazz music sometimes, because they think that its boring,” Jorgenson said. “This live performance is unforgettable.”