ST. GEORGE — The absence of live music has been a difficult reality for musicians and concertgoers this year, but the Jazz Alliance of Cedar City has found a way to safely bring concerts back, even if it doesn’t feel exactly the same.
Kind of Blue, a trio of jazz musicians and Southern Utah University music faculty members, performed at Off the Cuff Comedy on Tuesday night via livestream.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jazz Alliance, a nonprofit organization, hosted concerts monthly on Tuesdays at the comedy club. Kind of Blue was the first group to bring the series back since March.
The trio played six songs and wore masks the entire time. Tom Herb, president and founder of Jazz Alliance and saxophonist for Kind of Blue, wore a mask with a small hole near his mouth so he could play. Despite the masks, all three musicians agreed that the biggest challenge of the night was not being able to interact with the audience.
“Usually you can feed off of the audience,” drummer Lydia Field told St. George News. “When there’s just three people in the room, it’s a little harder to be energized.”
Jazz music leaves a lot of room for musicians to improvise, and the six songs the group played featured solos from all three members. Solos from the saxophone and the keyboard often draw whistles and cheers from the crowd, Field said, but the reactions were missed on Tuesday. Herb agreed.
“It’s not that immediate feedback,” he said of the livestream. “I’ll go back and look and see how many comments there are … but the immediate feedback from an audience is something that’s missing.”
That didn’t stop the group from having fun and playing the way they wanted. Playing with other experienced jazz musicians allows the group members more freedom, keyboardist Christian Bohnenstengel said.
“It’s always exciting playing jazz, getting together with really good players,” he said. “They are all flexible and can react and therefore tonight sounded totally different than if you would hear us playing in a different group. And I think that’s just fun.”
Playing with the group also allows the members to play more difficult pieces that they don’t teach their students, like “Song For My Father,” a Latin-inspired piece written by Horace Silver in 1964.
The hope is to resume the monthly Off the Cuff series via Facebook live, Herb said, with the next one on an undetermined Tuesday in December, but it will depend on what restrictions are in place at the time regarding the pandemic. Jazz Alliance plans to continue playing jazz and entertaining the public however possible in the face of the pandemic.
Bohnenstengel said he recognizes it’s not easy to tell people to come to a concert these days, but he added that “in general, support music as much as possible, especially right now.”
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