Lee Hall swings to the sounds of jazz, soul

FAMU Jazz ensemble holds their Evening of Jazz and Soul in Lee Hall Auditorium. Photo by Darryl Lewis

After not being able to perform for over a year, the Florida A&M University Jazz Ensemble staged an “An Evening of Jazz and Soul” concert Thursday in Lee Hall.

The concert began with a jazz combo, a smaller group of musicians. They performed covers to songs such as “Champagne Life” by Ne-Yo and “Green Eyes” by Erica Badu with vocals by RaeKwan Bostic and Taylor Harrison. The melodic sounds of trumpets, saxophones, trombones, and the help of bass guitars, piano, and drums set the tone for the rest of the concert.

“I love to see my students that have been in my classes, and I love to see the students that I am going to have. To see them as musicians is really special,” Rebecca Sager, an associate professor in the music department at FAMU, said.

Before the entire jazz ensemble came out to play, concert director Robert U. Griffin spoke about the hardships the ensemble experienced during the lockdown. He shared stories of attempting to hold practices via Zoom and said he was happy he and the ensemble are to be able to be back performing live.

The ensemble played selections like “Basically Blues” by Phil Wilson and “Stormy Weather” by Kohler/Arlen. Before finishing the concert, the band played “Funky Cha Cha” by Arturo Sandoval.

It included serval solos from different members of the ensemble, including two from guest artist Longineu Parsons, a well-known FAMU alumni trumpeter who gave an excellent performance, and Yazid Johnson, a Tallahassee legend on percussion who gave an outstanding conga solo.

The auditorium was mostly filled to show support for the ensemble. Some were there for a class assignment. Some came because they genuinely enjoy jazz.

“I just love jazz,” Tamiya Cozart, a FAMU student, said.

Other students used the event as an opportunity for a semi-romantic outing. “My friend brought me out tonight because I mentioned I wanted to go listen to jazz music one time when we were talking. That was sweet of him to remember.” Raven Brown, another FAMU student, said.

“An Evening of Jazz and Soul” was a great way to end the week and a flawless transition to the kickoff of homecoming week.