How did you get involved with the UW Jazz Orchestra?
At the beginning of my sophomore year of college, I realized that I really missed having jazz be a part of my musical life. (I was a band geek in high school.) I came to UW wanting to major in music education, which changed; I ended up with a music performance major--so I was in the saxophone studio and studied with Les Thimmig and played more classical stuff than anything. I started to get antsy my sophomore year. So I found out when auditions were and signed up. We had to play one up-tempo swing chart and one ballad. I don't even remember what I played anymore, but I guess it went over OK! I was so nervous. My teacher was there next to Jim at the audition, but I'd never met Jim before and had no idea of what to expect. The beginning of a new year is always stressful because it comes with a new round of auditions--your spot in the band is never guaranteed; it's based on the needs of the band. This year we have some really talented non-music majors, which is really great.
What's been your favorite memory so far from being a part of this ensemble?
It's really hard to think of a specific moment after being in the group for four years; there have been so many great times. One of my favorite memories was a concert we played in Middleton in 2008. Vocalist Janet Planet and New York saxophonist Matt Hong (also our director's cousin) played with us at the performance, and getting to perform with them was amazing. Both Matt and Jim (our director) had a bunch of solos that night, and it's always inspiring to hear them play. Jim is an incredible trumpet player, and unlike in most musicians I know or even professional ones I've listened to, Jim has this raw emotion in his sound that's really hard to find in the musical world.
But most recently, we played a gig at the Verona Public Library ("a big band walks into a library" sounds like a joke setup, but it was a really fun concert). There was this adorable 5-year-old kid in the front row, who kept saying "I am so excited to hear!" before we played. Jim, who has a reputation for being hilarious onstage, started having a conversation with this kid. "So, what instrument do you want to play?" he asked the kid. "No music, I wanna be a policeman," he replied. "Well, you can be a policeman and still play music; a lot of the people in this band are going to have different jobs other than being a musician," Jim responded. Then the boy went on and on about how he couldn't be a policeman because he would be too busy fighting bad guys ... all this in the middle of the concert in an otherwise silent library ... I just get a kick out of it when kids are so comfortable with our music that they interact with us.
Why do you think it's important for people our age to listen to jazz music?
I think there's a certain energy in jazz that doesn't exist elsewhere in music. And it's performed with a precision and technical skill that you don't find too often in music of popular genres (e.g., try comparing a Ke$Ha song to anything by Duke Ellington). On top of it being America's true art form, it gives listeners a hugely vast repertoire of music that can inspire emotions you never knew you had.
And another thing--some, I'd argue most, people of our generation think that jazz is boring, outdated or doesn't fit with today's music. But those people don't really understand what jazz is about. Honestly, it all got started in a less than wholesome manner. Take the vowel out of the word and that's what it was actually inspired by. And one of the biggest swing hits ever, "In The Mood," is exactly what it sounds like it's about. So even if you won't hear jazz in the top 40 anymore, its themes can certainly resonate with what's popular nowadays.
So if you're not attuned to listening to jazz, I would encourage you to give it a try; you might find something you like.
Who is your favorite musician?
If we're talking jazz, Stan Getz is my definite favorite solo player. His sound on tenor sax is unlike any other, and it's straight-up sexy. For a primer, search "Here's That Rainy Day" or "Desfinado" on YouTube.
My favorite big band is the Stan Kenton band, which also has a unique sound in comparison to giants like Count Basie and Duke Ellington. They do an incredible arrangement of the "West Side Story" soundtrack, which is definitely worth a listen.
And if we're talking music of today, then Regina Spektor, hands down. Not only is she quirky, adorable and brilliant, but she also wrote a song that honors the great Billie Holiday in "Lady."
If you had to describe the UW Jazz conductor, Jim Doherty, in three words, what would they be?
Hilariously awesome, talented
Where can people check out the band next?
We'll be playing our last gig of the semester next Friday, May 11, from 5-7 p.m. at the Terrace! Also check us out on Facebook (just search "UW Jazz Orchestra") or hear us at uwjazzorchestra.bandcamp.com. We will also be playing a short but fun set at the Isthmus Jazz Festival on Saturday, June 2, also at the Terrace.