Posted by Ryan Chase on 10/14 at 01:48 PM
The noontime sun sprawled across the room in exaggerated rectangles, and Andrew Jackson was seated behind his drum kit with sticks in hand. Last Friday at the HUB, the Andrew Jackson Jazz Ensemble introduced the audience to a mix of hip-hop and jazz as part of the weekly SPA Noontime Series.
At its core, the Andrew Jackson Ensemble is a faithful throwback to European jazz, a style predicated on the sonic relationship between guitar and saxophone. However, Friday’s show was somewhat of a departure from previous efforts where outside talents take the helm several times, including Andrew Jackson’s son, Drew Jackson.
Andrew Jackson, a large, burly man, started off the show by shouting into the crackling microphone, “We Are…” Half the audience responded, “…Penn State!”
This exchange served as an appropriate microcosm of the show as a whole. The enthusiasm and vigor embodied by the band, most notably Mr. Jackson himself, vastly outweighed that of the audience. There were one or two exceptions. For example, one elderly man, wearing a light blue, long sleeve shirt, was bopping his shoulders throughout the event. However, the meager response was not indicative of the overall turnout which, in spite of people shuffling in and out, retained a consistent crowed around 56 people.
Despite the relative anemic audience response, the band still delivered a solid outing touting a slew of popular covers such as “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers. They also did some jams. Drew Jackson opened by rapping over his father’s beat on the drums. It signified the peak of audience participation, drawing loud cheers when Drew’s name was announced.
While Drew’s performance elicited the most cheers, it was, musically speaking, a tawdry example of nepotism. He had the charisma, pumping up the few people who were willing to be pumped up. However, he had no perceivable talent. On stage, or up front (since there was no stage, per say) he looked lost while forgoing actual, coherent words for opaque mumbling. I suppose if it works for Lil’ Wayne, why not him, right? Except Lil’ Wayne has gold teeth, which makes all the difference.
Following Drew Jackson, Andrew called a woman up from the audience, someone they claimed they had played with before, to sing “Ain’t No Sunshine.” This number was better than the previous one, though she missed a few notes, and it was ultimately forgettable. Afterward, she returned to her seat and the band jammed.
The jams were the best parts of the show. The musicians were exemplary despite a sound mix that wasn’t the best. Their line-up featured six people on instruments such as drums, electric guitar, bass guitar, saxophone, keyboard, and piano. The saxophone player, Tim Powell, stood out the most showcasing a divine mastery of his instrument. The rest of the band – outside of solos – tended to vanish beneath the overpowering noise of the drums, played by Andrew Jackson. The electric guitar was especially quiet, even during the solos.
It is a minor complaint, however, as the overall sound was pleasant enough, easily overriding whatever petty grievances arose. Stumbling at first (i.e. Drew Jackson and the vocalist deterring from the strength of the band) the show picked up once its focus shifted towards the musicianship of the band. The final thirty minutes was a delightful display of good, old-fashioned jazz.
Lasting only an hour, what is lunch for many, the show provided an excellent alternative for those looking to fill their time or seeking formidable outlets of quality music on campus.
The next SPA Noontime Series show, on October 15th, features New York-based jazz/pop guitarist Caleb Hawley.
Author: Ryan Chase
Bio: Ryan Chase is a senior at Pennsylvania State University, majoring in English and Sociology. In his free time, he enjoys writing, reading, woodcarving, and playing the guitar. Outside of most rap and opera, he listens to every type of music, but he prefers classic rock and jazz. His favorite artists are Robert Johnson, Heatmiser, and Minor Davis & the Fuzzy Slippers.
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