Courtesy of Ethan Dodd

In the Saybrook Underbrook on Friday night, the Yale Undergraduate Jazz Collective (YUJC) collaborated with New School saxophonist Julian Roel.

The YUJC hosted the Julian Roel Quartet as a part of their Underbrook Concert Series. Through this series, the YUJC brings artists to engage the Yale community with performances and masterclasses. The series programs three to four concerts each semester, all of which are free and open to the public.

In the past, the YUJC has invited professional jazz artists, including vibraphonist Joel Ross and guitarist-composer Shubh Saran. Yet this time, the collective “tried something different” by inviting a student group, said Calvin Kaleel ’22, the YUJC’s Publicity Coordinator. He noted that the Collective is making an effort to “branch out” by inviting student artists on the “edge of breaking out.”

“The mission of the Jazz Collective is pretty big and broad,” Kaleel said. He said the collective seeks to cultivate a rich on-campus jazz scene, and bringing in student groups could support this mission by opening up possibilities for future collaboration.

Sam Panner ’21, co-president of the YUJC, said that while programming, the collective likes to diversify both show size and performers’ musical styles. Because the group is entirely student-run, they combat financial limitations by seeking up-and-coming talent. “It’s great, because we get to be part of their process of getting big,” Panner said.

Kaleel met Roel of the New School’s Julian Roel Quartet in music camp. Kaleel proposed programming the quartet in this season’s concert series because he thought it would be “really cool” to explore a musical collaboration between the two groups.

Roel described Kaleel’s proposal as a “rare opportunity.” He said he sees value in creating connections between different schools, since it paves the way for future collaborations.

Sentinels of Sound, a jazz performance group at Yale, opened for the quartet on Friday night. The quartet performed common jazz favorites alongside original music composed by Roel. Roel performed with Hans Young-Binter, Vatan Rajan and Vijay Nayak.

Several YUJC board members, including Panner, are members of Sentinels of Sound. Panner noted that the musical contrast between the two groups created an enjoyable experience for the audience. While the Sentinels of Sound mainly performs free improvisations, and is largely influenced by music that members listen to — including modern jazz and “funk beats” — the Roel quartet showcased more conventionally famous jazz.

“[The quartet] played more straight-ahead music than we’re used to at the Underbook, generally,” Panner said. “It was a nice change of pace, because when you have these students coming from a school, they play what they’re learning — which is the essence of jazz, and what pure jazz means for a lot of people.”

Kaleel said he found the quartet’s performance musically informative because he could compare the variances in jazz instruction across different universities. He described the performance as a “cool opportunity” to learn from other musicians and think about incorporating different styles into Yale’s jazz scene.

Kaleel said the quartet’s improvisation demonstrated a “sharpness” and “deftness” that comes with both practice and a full-time faculty at the New School dedicated to the art form. He said it was a great experience to learn from musicians who “live and breathe jazz.”

Yet Roel was also struck by the Sentinels of Sound’s performance. He described their technique as “really interesting.” Roel said their improvisation allowed room for creation, but they maintained “structure” and group “cohesion.”

Both Panner and Kaleel said the show invoked a largely positive audience reaction. Roel mentioned the possibility of further exploring this collaboration at the New School in New York.

“I think jazz is one of the coolest art forms, and I think it has value not only as an art form but also as something that makes people incredibly happy,” Kaleel said.

Freya Savla |