Music Talks: Jazz Conversations

Deryn Varney

At the Colgate Memorial Chapel last Sunday afternoon, Colgate University’s Associate Professor of Music, Glenn Cashman, and Chair of the Eastman School of Music, Harold Danko, put on the lead performance, called “Jazz Conversations,” in a new season of Sunday music supported by the Colgate University Music Department.

Cashman and Danko began to play at 3:30 p.m. on this, “beautiful November day,” as Cashman smartly described the unseasonably brisk weather. It was an impressive performance with Cashman playing saxophone and Danko on piano.

However, the crowd was sparse. the Chapel, which can seat an entire incoming class, contained only about sixty people. These were mostly adults from in or out of town with a meager smattering of Colgate students and three small children.

Those who were there looked impressed. Some leaned forward and closed their eyes, listening intently. One woman bobbed almost frenetically for the length of the concert, which lasted about an hour and a half with intermission. At least one other in the audience hummed along.

Many seemed to be regulars, like Frank Upcraft and Lois Lloyd, who were seated in the back row. The two drive from their home twenty minutes away, in Waterville, to Colgate every Sunday to listen to the music.

“We’ve been coming here for I don’t know how many years,” Upcraft said.

The two say they enjoy all kinds of music, though Chapel performances are mostly classical.

The program on Sunday consisted of eight songs, two of which were standard jazz repertoire, four original compositions by Cashman and Danko, and one an original arrangement by Cashman. Since all jazz music has an element of improvisation, every song can be original; that’s what makes it appealing to both Danko and Cashman.

“You always try to make it your own,” Cashman said.

In the performance, one of Cashman’s works was called “Lighthouse Keeping Man;” it written for Howard Rumsey, an important figure in the development of West Coast Jazz. More of Cashman’s works included “I’ve Got Your Rhythm,” a melody created over George Gershwin’s chord progression from the famous “I Got Rhythm,” and “Ipanema Reharmed,” a new chord structure for composer Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “The Girl from Ipanema.”

What Danko appreciates about jazz music is being able to make a mistake but then find a way to resolve it into part of the melody; he enjoys the chance to improvise.

“I can worm my way out of mistakes,” Danko said.

In the performance, his original contributions were called “New Autumn,” “Tidal Breeze” and Waiting Time,” which was a piano solo.

The two played together energetically and skillfully while remaining very relaxed. They swayed to their own music, revealing their long history of performing jazz in the fact that, while they had met one year ago at the Eastman school of music, the two had never played together until a rehearsal earlier that day. Their conversations ranged from lilting, emotional pieces to upbeat and lively ones. The audience clapped appreciatively after each solo.

Anyone who enjoys music could easily have a good time at one of Colgate’s Sunday music performances. One of the few Colgate students in the audience, first-year Varinka Voigt, does not often listen to jazz music, and she doesn’t play an instrument. Still, she was able to appreciate the sounds of the performance.

“I heard it outside and liked it,” Voigt said.

Her statement stands as testimony that anyone interested can enjoy music on a Sunday afternoon, if they only take the time to listen.