“Jazz at Noon” Honors Hamilton Musician Christopher Shenkel

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Jimmy Johns, Tom Brigandi and Jim McDowell (left to right) captivate audiences in the Palace Underground.

Gaby Bianchi, Maroon-News Staff

The Palace Theater hosted “Jazz at Noon” on Saturday April 9. This musical event highlighted the talents of host and trumpeter Jim McDowell. Vibraphonist Jimmy Johns and bassist Tom Brigandi from Syracuse were featured artists. The music itself was located in the Palace Underground, the downstairs portion of the Theater. The musicians performed for two hours, and a short break occurred after the first hour of music. 

The venue’s dim lighting, paired with candles and black tablecloths, created an intimate atmosphere for listening and established a connection with the music and performers. All of the available chairs for the event were filled with attentive listeners who bopped their heads and feet to the music. The physical closeness of the performers to the audience transferred the energy and passion of the jazz into the crowd.

“The concert was very engaging as a result of the excitement of the musicians, who, smiling and laughing to one another as they played, made it clear they truly enjoyed what they were doing,” first-year Ally Shahidi said. 

“Jazz at Noon” served as a commemoration of the life and recent passing of musician Christopher J. Shenkel. Shenkel taught music at Hamilton Central School since 2007. He also performed with several symphonies including the Colgate University Orchestra, Catskill Symphony Orchestra and the Binghamton Philharmonic. His dedication to music and teaching left lasting impacts on his students and those he interacted with in the music world and beyond. This jazz event honored Shenkel’s career as a cellist while simultaneously allowing his memory and spirit to live on. 

Piano, drum set, vibraphone, trumpet, bass and singers were included in this two-hour performance. A syncretic blend of the instruments created melodious music. Solos were also included to celebrate individual talents and the unique qualities of the instruments. 

Jazz instrumental standards such as “I’ll Remember April,” written in 1941 by Gene de Paul and “There Will Never Be Another You,” composed by Harry Warren in 1942, showcased the talents of these musicians. Singers joined the ensemble for a few classic selections. “Pennies From Heaven,” made popular by Bing Crosby in 1936 was performed with cheerful enthusiasm. Pianist Dianne Adams McDowell proudly belted the lyrics in a manner that contagiously spread joyfulness. 

Another crowd favorite was “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” composed by Jimmy McHugh with lyrics written by Dorothy Fields in 1930. Junior Jazmyn McKoy sang “Summertime” a hauntingly beautiful aria composed in 1934 by George Gershwin for the opera Porgy and Bess. In performing these classics, the musicians radiated a sense of timelessness and sophistication. 

The event emphasized a social aspect to music; friends and family members congregated together to celebrate beautiful music while enjoying each others’ company. A deep appreciation was clearly evident within the audience for the talents presented before them.