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Content Any Way U Want It!

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University faculty perform downtown on weekly jazz night

There’s nothing quite like listening to a jazz quartet. The sounds of the saxophone and the heavy tones of the double bass resonate within the body, and the tranquil onlooker enjoys the groovy serenity that can only be produced by roughly three decades of experience.

Originally one of the University’s faculty resident ensembles, the Faculty Jazz Quartet has been playing together for roughly 30 years. According to double bass player and professor of Jazz Studies Jeff Halsey, the University has implemented some type of faculty group since he started teaching 32 years ago.

Guitarist Chris Buzzelli added his talents to the group 30 years ago and percussionist Roger Schupp joined roughly 10 years later. The quartet added their new saxophone player David Bixler seven years ago.

All four members of the quartet, as their name suggests, are part of the University’s music faculty and play at One49 North for Jazz Night frequently. Although they all play with other people and at other venues, Halsey said Jazz night is their main gig because it allows them to not only perform with one another on a recurring basis, but it also allows them to teach their students.

“[Jazz Night] is mainly for us to play together for our students,” Halsey said. “This is our attempt at keeping things real in sort of the environment that jazz has always been produced in.”

For 20 years, Jazz Night was held at the Easy Street Café but was moved to One49 North roughly six years ago. Grace Dillon, an employee at One49 North, said Jazz Night usually brings in a good amount of people and is a loud but “super laid-back atmosphere.” She also said the three-dollar wine with one-dollar refills they offer on Jazz Night plays a strong part in producing that atmosphere.

The quartet plays at One49 North almost weekly, which saxophonist and associate professor of Jazz Studies David Bixler said they are all extremely grateful for.

“We’re grateful to have a place for a steady gig and steady outlet,” he said. “Most people don’t know or appreciate jazz and the fact that we’re allowed to play every week is fantastic.”

To many, music and jazz especially is nothing more than a compilation of beats, rhythms and strings. However, Bixler said that even in playing the most typical of songs, one’s personal preference and the way one approaches a song from a particular mindset is an extremely thorough and thought-provoking process.

“A lot of it is your approach to it, philosophically,” he said. “Are you restricted by what traditional thought says? There are some tunes that lend themselves more to that and there’s probably a formula that identifies them as why. A lot of it is personal preference though.”

Bixler said the songs they play are pretty typical but because every member has a different background in regards to style and what they like to play, every once in a while the group will pick up a new tune, practice it on their own, and then add and change things as they play.

However, the Faculty Jazz Quartet primarily implements a repertoire of American popular songs that are essential for establishing the foundation of jazz for their students. The teaching aspect is something all members agree is rewarding and beneficial. The more advanced students will even come out on Jazz Night to perform with the quartet during their last set, which is something Bixler and Halsey both said is really cool to witness.

Although it’s the summer and less students are present to witness the four friends perform, they still keep it going week after week. The quartet members keep it going because they’re good friends, enjoy playing with each other and love what they do.

“In a nutshell, I kind of explain to people that I get to go out and play my bass, stand in front of a bunch of people and then we talk about it,” Halsey said. “It’s a wonderful way to make a living.”

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