A Groovy Combo

By Hannah Morgan

Students, parents, musicians and music aficionados alike crowded into CSPAC to groove with two UMD student jazz combos. The show was spectacular, and featured songs written by some of the combo members themselves.

The Gerry Kunkel Combo walked on stage and started to play immediately; they didn't waste any time with introducing themselves or their playlist. The six musicians, wearing all black, took turns soloing and appeared to be focused on playing in unison rather than impressing the audience. They nodded to each other, tapped their feet, snapped and swayed while reacting to each other's solos and appeared to be having a great time on stage. One of my favorite songs they played was written by the piano player, Nguyen Khoi Nguyen, after he spent a year in China. The piece began with the drummer playing the wooden stool he was sitting on, and various members of the group played on their water bottles, finger cymbals, and the performance ended with the entire audience and the band members clapping together the same beat. It was such a cool feeling to be part of this innovative performance!

The bass player, Phil Ravita, wrote another one of the songs performed, titled "Lost Art," and I really enjoyed watching him react and interact to the music and the band as they performed it. The piece began with a bass solo, but as the song developed, all of the instruments layered on to each other, traded solos and adjusted to each other's sounds and rhythms, and appeared to be having a great time together, a theme of the evening.

The Tom Baldwin Combo performed next, and continued the groovy vibe in the hall. I loved that the drummer and piano player were girls, and I noticed that the drummer played without her shoes on. Each member of the band had the chance to solo multiple times, and the band encouraged each other and danced along while the other members were playing. The trumpet player, Griffith Kazmierczack, wrote one of the songs performed, which ended with the drums soloing over the entire band. The hall came to such a climax I was upset when the song ended. The band made me want to stand up and shake, but at the same time played songs I imagined myself swaying to at the end of the night in a smoky jazz bar. Because each member of both bands appeared to be having such a great time throughout the night, I really enjoyed myself and can't wait to see some of these musicians perform again soon.