Duo Does Jazz at the Chapel

This past Sunday, September 26, in the Memorial Chapel, duo Bill Cunliffe and Glenn Cashman held a jazz concert. Many Colgate students attended, as well as numerous community members from the Hamilton area. Cunliffe is a Grammy winning composer, arranger and jazz pianist who has played across the nation. He won a Grammy this past year in Best Instrumental Arrangement for “West Side Story Medley.” Cashman is a Colgate Associate Professor of Music, as well as an amazing saxophone player who spends much of his time in California performing and recording.

Even though it was dreary outside, there was no such atmosphere in the Chapel. Cunliffe and Cashman kept the audience tapping their toes as they played some pieces by Duke Ellington as well as their own compositions. Their music encompassed many aspects of jazz and made it a very mellow but soulful Sunday afternoon. One of Cunliffe’s pieces, “What Might Have Been,” is based off of a break-up he experienced a couple years ago, and you could feel the tension in the song.

Cashman brought out numerous songs of his own as well, including “Heróis,” meaning “Heroes” in Portuguese, which is a kind of Brazilian Bolero. Many people in the audience, including me, were bopping to the beat as he was ripping it up on the clarinet, and Cunliffe was making magic happen on the ivories.

Though Cunliffe and Cashman do not play together normally, you could tell from watching them on stage how well they worked off of each other – as it became apparent with the cohesive flow of their music. Their ability to listen and understand each other musically without speaking is a skill all musicians aspire to have when playing either as a duet or in the orchestra.

Cunliffe played a song that was a medley of Duke Ellington songs, as he says “Duke Ellington is the most important composer of jazz.” He flowed splendidly from one piece to another, taking care to continue to bring the audience with him.

One piece they played, “Invitation” by Bronislau Kaper and Paul Webster, was extremely interesting as it began with a solo on the saxophone, which differed from the other pieces. Additionally, Cunliffe started playing the piano by strumming the piano strings, something I had never seen before. It created a very nice effect of dramatizing the difference between the string and the metallic sound of the sax. They ended with “McCoy,” a new composition by Cashman. It is a great piece, for the solos gave a feeling of improvisation throughout.

Now, I must admit, I am not the biggest jazz fan – I like it, but it’s not what I usually choose to listen too. However, this concert made me really get into the music, and feel what they were feeling – the supreme goal of music. All any musician wants is to express themselves and have one person understand what they are trying to say. And I can safely say that Cunliffe and Cashman were heard.