First WSU Jazz Forum a smashing hit

BLAINE ROSS, Evergreen columnist

It’s often argued that jazz is “America’s classical music.” But people are blatantly wrong. This idea was the main topic of discussion during the interactive conversation on jazz at the first ever WSU Jazz Forum.

The forum was put on by the WSU Jazz Society, with the main topic of the night being the argument against jazz being the American classical music.

Graduate student Alison Poteracke best summed up the argument, saying that “calling jazz the classical music of America is sort of a disservice because that tries to add prestige to something that is already very prestigious.”

Associate professor of music Horace Young added to that statement by asking, “We don’t see European people measuring their indigenous music like jazz is to classical, so why are we doing it to our own?”

Young was making the point that comparing jazz to classical music tries to unjustly compare two wildly different forms of music, with traditional classical music being Europe’s indigenous music and jazz being the American equivalent.

Four bands played at the forum and all four impressed me in their own ways.

The first band was the Horace Alexander Young group, and right out of the gate, Young surprised the audience by singing rather than playing the saxophone he’s known for. His style reflected that of Ray Charles at the beginning of his career.

Music instructor Brian Ward then gave a full send on the piano, tickling the ivories masterfully. Music instructor Dave Snider played the bass passionately, and Young, when he played his horn, was a showman. He played a melody line that was smooth as butter while dancing like a maniac. Music professor David Jarvis’ fills on the drum kit were sublime.

Graduate teaching assistant Richard Owens’ band also earned their spot in this paper, as well as the other three groups that performed.

One of my favorite WSU pianists, Raul Blanco, also plays in the group. Blanco has the makings of a legend with a ferocious playing style.

Owens dedicated the second song to his musical idol and gave a heartfelt message to the audience.

“Always pay homage to the person that paved the way and allowed you to have a musical career,” he said.

Being a traditionalist, my favorite group of the night was Raul Blanco’s. They played “Autumn Leaves” and “Bye-Bye Blackbird,” two jazz standards. “Autumn Leaves” opened with nothing but pure piano euphoria. I can’t compliment Blanco’s music enough, because it’s addictive. His piano is pure musical heroin for an audience.

The last band to play before the jam session was the Latin Band, which was also led by Raul Blanco.

They were explosive, channeling their Latin style into challenging music with intricate percussion and piano, as well as trumpet parts in the stratosphere of pitch. There was no need to wait for them to settle into a groove like a bad band, because they live in their groove. Their second piece was an original composition titled “Cougar Jam,” which paid homage to the WSU Cougars.

As an individual who lives for music and is watching the slow death of jazz, I’d like to thank Poteracke for putting this event together. It’s about time more people gave a damn about the performing arts.

For upcoming Jazz Society events and membership information, visit their Facebook page at WSU Jazz Society.

Blaine Ross is a freshman music education major from Montesano. He can be contacted at [email protected]