The undergraduate jazz band Hersh and the Guptas plans to bring jazz to Yalies in a program titled “A Jazz Concert for the People.”
On Friday in the Jonathan Edwards College Common Room, the group will perform the program, in an event hosted by the Yale Undergraduate Jazz Collective. The program aims to help the audience better understand jazz music through conversation and demonstration.
“This is a jazz concert that will provide an illustration of some of the things I always find myself at a loss for words in explaining when people ask me questions about jazz,” organizer and bassist Nicholas Serrambana ’20 said.
Serrambana said the event was influenced by two of his bass teacher’s pedagogical methods: providing diverse listening assignments and hosting events that bring guest artists who both perform and discuss the music they play.
At the group’s concert, the performers will express their music both verbally and musically. The concert will feature five pieces of traditional jazz music, including “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise” by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II, a melody derived from musical theater.
“We are going to show different ways of interpreting the melody through a particular lens of the evolution of jazz music through certain decades,” said Hersh Gupta ’20, a saxophonist in the group, as well as the group’s namesake.
Gupta added that in order to show the audience about the evolution of jazz, the group will first play an excerpt of Romberg and Hammerstein’s melody without embellishment or accompaniment, followed by another interpretation of the melody in a trio version that represents the jazz of the ’50s.
Then the group will play the same sample of the melody through the lens of the Miles Davis quintet of the ’60s, followed by the funk style of the ’70s.
“Finally, we are going to play the whole tune with all the different influences in mind, but with our own perspectives,” Gupta said.
Serrambana highlighted jazz music’s ability to transform the same tune through eras.
“One of the things I enjoy most about jazz is the idea of taking the same source material and being able to see it in different contexts, and I don’t know if there’s really an analogy for that in other art forms — it’s what makes jazz unique.”
The concert will begin with the blues, a form that Serrambana said most jazz shows incorporate into their setlists because it is the most ubiquitous form of jazz.
Gupta said that the blues piece the group will perform was written by McCoy Tyner, a jazz pianist known for his work with John Coltrane.
He added that Tyner pioneered a method of voicing chord progressions in stacks of fourths. The chromatic movement of these chords is a notable feature of Tyner’s style that Gupta noted “bled into the way he played and improvised, and also the way he wrote.”
The setlist will also feature a ballad, ”Body and Soul” by Johnny Green, which Serrambana described as a “palate cleanser,” followed by “Power to the People” by Joe Henderson to complete the event.
Thomas Hagen ’20, the group’s drummer, said the Henderson selection, released in 1969, will “show off some more modern flare.”
“I will not be playing a lead role in the band, but it will be my job [as drummer] to mark the different styles of the pieces by implementing a variety of different approaches to the drum kit, from swinging with finesse, to flowing freely, to grooving with attitude,” Hagen said.
The group is coached by Grammy-winning tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, who is part of the Yale School of Music’s Jazz Initiative.
Julia Carabatsos | firstname.lastname@example.org