Aaron Goldberg brought his jazz trio to Rochester for a series of events at Eastman and the River Campus on Oct. 29. Goldberg brought a quartet to UR in 2002, and thanks to the efforts of senior Dan Israel, the Eastman Jazz Department, Delta Upsilon,UR Concerts and the Undergraduate Music Council, Aaron was able to return for an expanded program last Friday.
The day began with a master class at Eastman where pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Ali Jackson Jr. discussed and demonstrated the fundamentals of soloing in jazz. Students played with the trio and were given feedback on their performance.
Then the events moved to River Campus where the trio led a discussion on the life of jazz musicians. The musicians began by recounting stories of their world travels and discussing financial struggles, but the conversation ultimately led to the current state of jazz in America.Jazz, a uniquely American art form, is perhaps at its height musically, and yet at a low in terms of its popularity within the United States.
Ali Jackson explained that jazz music is very rewarding both to play and listen to, but is too vast and diverse for most people to jump right in and understand what’s going on. Aaron likened jazz to a conversation, saying, “The more you listen [to jazz] the better you can understand what the musicians are saying.”
Aaron, 30, grew up in Boston, and played gigs throughout his education at Harvard University before moving to New York permanently in 1996. Reuben Rogers grew up in the Virgin Islands, and plays other types of music, including hip-hop, as an electric bassist. Ali Jackson, Jr. comes from generations of musicians. His mother was a classical pianist and his father was a jazz bass teacher who constantly had high-profile jazz musicians visiting their home in Detroit.
The trio’s comments earlier in the day made it clear that jazz is not dead, and their energetic performance in Wilson Commons at night including more than two hours of music supported their claim.
The tables and food lining the May Room were supposed to simulate the relaxed atmosphere of a New York jazz club. Most of the compositions were Goldberg’s own, with the notable exceptions of Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” played for the encore, and a Brazilian cover featuring Rogers.
The trio format allowed these top musicians, often relegated as sidemen to bigger named artists, to show their virtuosities on their respective instruments. The group’s performance defied clear categorization in the spectrum of jazz, with Latin and funk grooves dispersed in their sets and frequent free-form rubato piano solos from Aaron. It is clear from speaking with these musicians that they have a tremendous passion for the music they play, and a respect for and knowledge of those who came before them. Rogers, one of the most in-demand acoustic bass players in New York City, played a number of impassioned solos that couldn’t help but put smiles on the faces of those in the crowd, both young and old. The audience could tell when something special was happening, as Reuben couldn’t help but dance with his bass. Ali’s strong musical background came through in his melodic soloing reminiscent of one of his teachers and a great master of the drums, Max Roach.
Aside from their incredible technical skills, these musicians also displayed the ability to improvise and be creative artists, a foreign concept in contemporary popular music – Aaron muffled piano strings, while Ali would play the sides of his drums and stands, all in search of unique sounds to enhance the music. “The show sold more than half as many tickets as did the much higher profile performance of Train earlier this fall,” UR Concerts President and senior Chris Skeehan said. Goldberg called the day’s events “a tremendous success.”
The trio helped to preserve the future of jazz by inspiring young players at Eastman, and introducing their music through discussion and performance to a new audience. From the jazz students at the master class, to the novice listeners at the academic program, all fans of jazz, both old and new, were treated to and united in a great evening of jazz.
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