Tuesday at the Taproom: An Evening of Jazz



Delicious food, good company, and great music: what more could you ask for? As I entered the Taproom at the Colgate Inn last Tuesday evening, the Miles Davis tune that floated through the air instantly captured my attention. The Mark Shiner quartet, comprised of Mark Shiner on drums, Glenn Cashman on saxophone, Mike Solazzo on string bass and Barry Blumenthal (substituting for Rick Montalbano) on keyboard, was in brilliant form; each member was able to showcase his musical talent through intricate improvisational riffs. Following a snappy introduction, the saxophone took the spotlight, accompanied only by the drums. The bass and keyboard then took over the melody. As the four members of the band played, they communicated through melody and emotion; their love for the music was irresistibly contagious. I could not help but tap my foot and sway to the rhythm.The group was formed when the Colgate Inn contacted Shiner about creating a weekly jazz night with a steady group. Shiner collaborated with Montalbano and Cashman to form a trio, and they performed in the lobby of the inn. Eventually, they brought in Solazzo on bass, and the quartet was born. Each of the members of the quartet has an impressive resume including many differing musical endeavors. Mark Shiner, who serves as the Catholic Chaplain at Colgate, previously worked as a freelance musician in myriad genres including musical theater, rock and blues. He was a member of the Bearcat Jass Band, a repertory dixieland band that remained faithful to the original spelling of what we know today as jazz. As an Associate Professor of Music at Colgate, Cashman specializes in jazz studies. He leads the Colgate Jazz Ensemble and teaches courses such as the History of Jazz and Jazz Improvisation. He has played with the Central New York Jazz Orchestra in years past, and he travels to Los Angeles four to five times a year to perform with other jazz groups. Cashman has made several recordings on reputed labels such as Indigo, and composes as well.The former band director of Skaneatales Central School, Solazzo now spends most of his time on the road up and down the East Coast, focusing mainly on jazz gigs. In his greener days as a freelance bassist, he played in wedding bands and musicals, but always felt the greatest appreciation for jazz. It is evident in his impassioned delivery of the music. A true “Renaissance man,” as his bandmates describe him, Montalbano is the co-owner of the Music Factory recording studio, a musical contractor for the Turning Stone Casino in Oneida, and the Associate Music Director of the Central New York Jazz Orchestra. He is an Adjunct Professor here at Colgate, and also teaches at Syracuse University, Hamilton College and SUNY Marcy. In addition, he recorded and performed extensively with many of the modern jazz greats. Unfortunately, there are very few venues for jazz in the area. “You can’t have a job as a full-time jazz musician in Central New York,” states Shiner. In fact, there is not a single club in Syracuse devoted entirely to jazz, a fact the group finds quite regrettable. Tuesdays at the Taproom serve as a wonderful opportunity for the Hamilton community to experience jazz at such high caliber. Every week, from 5:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., the quartet plays for a mix of students, faculty and members of the Hamilton community. Several familiar faces return week after week to enjoy a slice of Tollhouse pie with a generous serving of jazz. Seniors Annabel Truesdell and Carla Jones and sophomore Katie Svoboda are among such devotees. “We just head down every Tuesday to hear the music,” notes Katie. “It’s wonderful that we have a group like this on campus.”Student interest in jazz seems to have increased. During the course registration period, the 30 spots in his History of Jazz course filled rapidly and the waitlist topped off at an unprecedented 68. The quartet hopes that this interest will continue to thrive and are looking forward to seeing even more new faces at the Taproom for its weekly performances.After the quartet had finished its last set, Colgate Inn Manager Ben Eberhardt came over to offer his congratulations. “The music is great for the inn, great for the community,” he exclaimed. “Jazz belongs here!” We couldn’t agree more.