Looking sharp in a sleek vest, vintage hat and musical-notes tie, senior Sam Fishman stands in front of the growing Starbucks crowd just before 10 p.m. He tells the eager crowd that a few of his band members are going to warm up in the bathroom (which is met with a few chuckles from the audience), and, in the meantime, he and fellow band member junior Adam Gross start with a drums/bass duo (Fishman on drums, Gross on bass). The crowd watches as Fishman and Gross begin to groove, until, out of nowhere, Fishman yells, ‘Hot damn! It’s Shuggie and his hornsmen! Bring it in!” The three remaining musicians, junior Jeremy Fishman on alto sax, junior Mark Hardison on trumpet and senior Mike ‘Shuggie” Sugarman on trombone, begin to play as they walk through Starbucks and make their way toward Fishman and Gross. The five exchange wide grins, pleased with their successfully planned entrance, and begin to start the show.

This is Tootinkamen, a jazz quintet combining various styles of music, including Middle Eastern, funk and even avant-garde. The band refers to its music as ‘energetic jazz,” as they are ultimately trying to ‘dispel the myth of jazz” and alter many people’s perceptions of jazz. Jazz is often considered as calm music and can even at times be seen as boring. The guys of Tootinkamen are trying extremely hard to change this steretype and to show those around them that there is another side of jazz waiting to be exposed one that is filled with high-energy and rather wild.

‘People don’t realize that jazz can have a lot of energy, even more so than rock and roll,” Fishman said, and the rest of the band agreed. With a diverse arrangement of songs that feature multiple solos by each member of the band, Tootinkamen is essentially trying to keep its music interesting and make it more of an experience for the audience. There is clearly an edge to the members’ playing, as their music is certainly not smooth or traditional jazz.

Tootinkamen’s ultimate goal is to bridge the gap between the musicians and the audience, as well as between avid music nuts and those who are not as familiar with certain aspects of music. They want their audience to have fun and get involved in the show, and the band’s body language and the small conversations they engage in on stage are clear indications of the relaxed atmosphere and good chemistry that contribute greatly to the band’s success. While much of its music is based on improvisation, the band has constructed guidelines for each of its songs. ‘There has to be an element of structure, otherwise it’s just noise,” Hardison said.

The show at Starbucks was Tootinkamen’s first real show. They played at Meliora Night Live, but have never actually been featured in a major show until now. The Starbucks crowd grew rapidly as the band continued to play, and by the time the jazz ensemble director and special guest Bill Tiberio joined the group on ‘The Chicken,” everyone in Starbucks was grooving and having a great time. The show continued with ‘Porn,” featuring some wild vocals and dance moves, and the still-growing crowd couldn’t help but laugh in enjoyment. Tootinkamen finished its final tune, only to be met with shouts of ‘encore!” from the audience. The band succumbed to the audience’s wishes, performing one final song with some solos.

‘OK, now we’re really done,” Sugarman said with a smile. The band said its final goodbye, leaving its audience to consider the ‘jazz explosion” they had just witnessed and to wait in anticipation and excitement for Tootinkamen’s next big show.

Ocko is a member of the class of 2012.



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