In a dimly lit theater, the stage was illuminating purple and pinkish hues, casting its light on a piano, a drum set and three microphones standing in a row. Walking across the stage as the lights above the audience dimmed to black, Dr. Gloria Thurmond, director of the Jazz ‘n the Hall concert series, broke the silence with an opening speech.
On the night of Nov. 7, at the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), the diverse crowd filled with people of all ages, gathered to enjoy a night of jazz performed by members of the U.S. Army Veterans Band.
“I think it’s amazing that our veterans get to do things after they’re done (serving) because too often you see a guy comes home (and) doesn’t have the opportunities to roll over into something else,” Wyatt Morin, a sophomore political science major said. “These guys have found an amazing outlet for themselves.”
Lead vocalist Alexis Cole was joined by other featured players, including Scott Arcangel, James Cammack, Vito Speranza, Derrick James, Barry Cooper and guest artist Joseph Spinelli.
Professor Gregory Scime, musical director, pianist and veteran, has been involved in the Jazz ‘n the Hall concert series since its inception and is part of the Seton Hall Faculty Jazz Ensemble.
“The main factor is that veterans are a very important part of our system in society and the quality of music that you find throughout the armed forces is world class,” Scime said.
The two-hour show featured 20 songs, including numbers by jazz legends like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Bud Powell and Ella Fitzgerald. There was also a jazz rendition of “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel.
“I think they did absolutely awesome,” Morin said. “(When they performed) ‘You Make Me Feel So Young’, I hadn’t heard that in that fashion before. I’m used to the (Frank) Sinatra track, (but) to hear it so punchy and in a punchy-aggressive way, it hit in the right way.”
Listening to jazz live is different from listening to it as a recording. According to Scime, Jazz music heard through a recording is like looking at a postcard of a place you want to visit. It’s beautiful on the card, but it’s an entirely different experience in-person.
“(It’s) the experience of hearing live music, a music form that is transcendent,” Scime said. “(It) doesn’t matter who you are (or) where you are.”
Students also pointed out the energy in live music.
“(Seeing it) live, you get everybody’s reaction and you got the crowd cheering, everybody’s pumped up,” said Lexington Phils, a senior theatre major. “You know when you hear something so nice (that) everyone’s cheering and clapping.”
As a last tribute to veterans on stage and in the audience, the concert ended with “America the Beautiful,” sung by Cole. The jazz ensemble of veterans bowed and the audience showed its gratitude with a standing ovation.
“This jazz concert really showed you the fundamentals of music,” Phils said.
Marianne-Grace Datu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.