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April 28, 2011 Page 8


LMU student musicians jazz it up Group Feature


By Emily Rome

Favorite Jazz Songs

A&E Editor


few times over the past year, you may have walked into the Lion’s Den and heard music that made you wonder if you’d been beamed back to the 1950s. Upbeat drumming and smooth Anita O’Daylike crooning of songs such as “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Cheek to Cheek” may not be what you’d expect to hear around campus in 2011, but time travel isn’t at play here – it’s the JazzCats, LMU’s student jazz group. “I think we all grew up in the wrong era,” said the group’s bass player, Sean McEvoy, a senior English major. JazzCats’ members are all fans of jazz, whether lifelong fans like singer and sophomore music major Katie Rose Sanfilippo or new fans such as drummer and junior business major Chris Rowntree. Though they feel like their music tastes and talents may belong half a century or so prior, they’ve found success among the 21st century crowd at LMU since the group’s inception about a year ago. Tomorrow JazzCats will bring its smooth and lively sounds to LMU one more time this semester and for one of the last performances with its current members, as three of the group’s musicians are graduating next week. The group has played about 15 to 20 gigs since getting started in spring 2010, including at the Christmas Tree Lighting and for the approximately 2,000 atendees in the crowd at President David W. Burcham’s inauguration, which was quite a jump from its first crowd at the Lion’s Den in December. “They had us [play at the Den] on a Friday afternoon when no one was there,” said senior music major Justin Ramos, the group’s leader and pianist. “Literally no one,” McEvoy emphasized. Playing for a nonexistent crowd was a fleeting experience, though. Hearing live music, people started peeking their heads in the Den that day. Soon the group found itself performing its second gig right after its first. “Randomly, some people heard us in the Den and told us they were having a wedding reception upstairs [in The Hill] and they didn’t have a band,” McEvoy said. “They were like, ‘Hey, if we pay you $100, will you come upstairs and play for an hour?’” Now, JazzCats has had several paid gigs, and its latest Friday afternoon Lion’s Den performance was packed. But money or crowds isn’t what drives this group to make music. “The JazzCats play for fun, whether it be for one person or 100,” Ramos said. “We’ll play for free any day.” Ramos had wanted to start a jazz group on campus since his freshman year, but he was never able to get together a group of musicians until last year, when he discovered McEvoy. The bass player was rehearsing in Burns Fine Arts Center with his fellow Marymount Institute Trio members. Ramos and junior music major Rea Acda, another singer for the group, heard their music and stopped by their rehearsal room. “They saw me playing the bass, and they were just like, ‘We didn’t know anyone at this school played acoustic bass. We need to get your number,’” McEvoy said. At the Christmas Tree Lighting in December, the group performed for the first time with its current lineup, which also includes guitarist Charlie McCord, a senior music major. The group’s mem-

Singer Rea Acda:

“Cheek to Cheek” by Irving Berlin Guitarist Charlie McCord:

“Misty” by Erroll Garner Bassist Sean McEvoy:

“Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” by Duke Ellington, lyrics by Bob Russell

Pianist Justin Ramos:

“Fly Me To The Moon” by Bart Howard

Singer Katie Rose Sanfilippo:

“It’s Only A Paper Moon” by Harold Arlen with lyrics by E.Y. Harburg and Billy Rose Drummer Chris Rowntree:

“Chameleon” by Herbie Hancock Liana Bandziulis | Loyolan

JazzCats, LMU’s student jazz combo, has been performing both on campus and off since the group formed about a year ago. Pictured from left to right is pianist Justin Ramos, singer Katie Rose Sanfilippo, drummer Chris Rowntree, singer Rea Acda and bassist Sean McEvoy. Not pictured is guitarist Charlie McCord. bers recall feeling immediately comfortable performing with each other at that gig. “We meshed,” Rowntree said. They also don’t have to worry about getting stage fright when performing with each other. “If I’m doing a classical piece, I’ll be so nervous, but for some reason when I’m singing jazz with these guys [there are] no nerves,” Sanfilippo said. The group also enjoys the loose style of jazz, which involves a lot of improvisation and spontaneity. “With jazz, it’s not like you’re playing a song. It’s like you’re having a conversation,” Rowntree said. Jazz is a very creative process for the musicians since they’re improvising so much, with pretty much the entire song except the chorus being created by the group on the spot. The drum’s part isn’t even written into the song, so Rowntree comes up with all the beats himself. Performing a song live that the group has never practiced before is commonplace for the JazzCats, and it relishes in the fact that each show is different and that the unexpected can happen anytime. “Justin will jump off the stage in the middle of a song!” McEvoy said and then laughed to Ramos: “I’ve been so pissed at you onstage before! It’s like you’re supposed to be taking a melody, and we just have to play, and Justin’s walking around with his phone and saying hi to people.” “I have to do PR!” Ramos quickly defended. Audience members haven’t held back from joining in the non-stop fun of JazzCats. At the inauguration luncheon one man hopped onstage and started singing and dancing. When the group performed on Skid Row for Midnight Mission, it found a fellow musician playing along on his trumpet about half a block away. As the three seniors in JazzCats near graduation, the group is eager to bring new members into the group to keep it alive for many years to come. Updates about auditions will be posted on its Facebook page as the group searches for a new pianist, bassist and guitarist. It is also hoping to have a saxophonist or trumpet player join the group. Sanfilippo and Rowntree will take over for Ramos as co-leaders of Jazzcats next year. “We’ll need two people next year [to fill Ramos’ void] of that amount of energy,” Sanfilippo said.

Ramos plans to return for at least one gig next year though, as he’s eager to be a part of JazzCat’s performance at the LMU Centennial Alumni Barbeque on Sept. 25, 2011. JazzCats expects to have several more performances next year. Thus far, all of its shows have been booked through word of mouth without any help of advertising, and the group has been impressed

by how much of a presence it has established on campus. Sanfilippo recalled meeting a fellow new resident advisor at an ice-breaker event earlier this month when she was greeted with, “Hey! You’re the JazzCat!” The group also has hopes to eventually record a Christmas album. JazzCats will perform in the Lion’s Den tomorrow at 3:30 p.m.

The group favorite: “Birdland” by Joe Zawinul Ramos: “It’s a ball of energy.” Sanfilippo: “There are so many different melody sections. It’s so random. I never actually see the music, so I never know what’s happening next.” Acda: “It gives [the instrumentalists] a lot of freedom.” Rowntree: “It’s the most structurally complex song we play.” Compiled by Emily Rome | Loyolan

April 28, 2011  

April 28, 2011 Volume 89 Issue 43

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