Jazz the 'best-kept secret' of Southeast Missouri, director says

Friday, October 29, 2010
The Jazz Lab Band accompanies trombonist Matt Filer after his solo on Mike Dana's "Carvin' the Pumpkin" in Bedell Performance Hall on River Campus of Southeast Missouri State University. Two hundred-twenty eight people attended Thursday's performance. (Laura Simon)

More than 200 patrons came out Thursday for this year's first performance by Southeast Missouri State University jazz bands.

"The Big Bands are Back," held at the Bedell Performance Hall on Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus, was directed by Robert Conger.

"Jazz is this area's best-kept secret," Conger said. "... What we do is play as much big band music as we can and we have a lot of fun doing it."

Before the performance even started, a group of students who created a jazz combo played a few songs that were influenced by such artists as Miles Davis and Charlie Parker. The combo began at 7 p.m. as attendees started to file into the performance hall and concluded a few minutes before the show's start at 7:30 p.m.

"That combo was great," Jim Bagot of Cape Girardeau said. "These guys are young and highly talented. I was really impressed by how exceptionally well they played."

Around 7:30 p.m., the Jazz Lab Band, under Conger's direction, began to play several big band compositions.

"This is just a wonderful experience," said patron Gary Estes. "If you live in the Southeast Missouri area and like jazz and were not here tonight, you really missed out on an incredible performance."

Seth Gettings, who plays in the Doniphan High School jazz band, attended with his band mates as an educational experience.

"I was able learn about some of the dynamics of jazz performance," Gettings said, by watching the soloists and the bass player.

The Jazz Lab was followed by a brief intermission, after which the Studio Jazz Ensemble swept aside the relative silence with more jazz songs that were, according to patron Dr. Myra Peo, "absolutely wonderful."

"I'm an old Stan Canton fan, so this music is very meaningful to me," Peo said. "These performers had the arrangement right on and were delightful to listen to."

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