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The Bottesini Project Jazz Band at CU Boulder

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Jazzgirlashley View Drop Down
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    Posted: 13 Dec 2019 at 4:21pm

A jazz band named The Bottesini Project performed songs that were meant to be soul-filled and moody. They performed at the Old Main Chapel at CU Boulder on December 2nd, 2019.  Together since 2009, the band consisted of talented men; founder Paul Riola playing the saxophone, Ron Miles playing the trumpet, Scott Amendola playing the drums, and Jeff Parker and Nels Cline playing the cello. As the 5 men played their musical improvisation with their instruments, they gave a performance that was interesting and unique. They played upbeat songs as well as slow songs that they had never practiced before. By doing improv, the band seemed to be more chaotic than well put together. I immediately noticed the band was off tune and off tempo in the first song. The trumpets and saxophones werenít all on the right key together and it became obvious that the musicians were trying to blend but had a hard time with it. Often times one musician would take over with their instrument and dominate while others tried to dominate as well, and it sounded too harsh. Some songs I couldnít even hear the cello. While the band was improvising, I noticed the guest player stopped abruptly. He had a confused look on his face and stopped tapping his foot, trying to catch up with the others and find a cue to come back in.

            Each individual improv song was a bit too long for a normal attention span. The songs werenít engaging enough. Part of an audienceís engagement comes from the stage set up, outfits, and confidence. The stage set up could have been better and more spread out, as the audience on the left could not see the second saxophone player or the drummer because the first saxophone player was in the way, blocking the musician. As a professional band, it was hard to believe they have been together for years because of the way they played together didnít mesh well and neither did their style. The outfits they chose were not what a jazz band would wear, but more of a casual look. Their stage presence was not as professional as they make themselves out to be. The band lacks confidence when they get off tune and lose rhythm and donít act like they own the show. The only part of the performance that I noticed confidence was when the second saxophone player moved his body back and forth to the beat of the song. When people move around on stage and act like theyíre confident that grabs the attention of the audience more and makes them more engaged in the performance.

Each musician had their own unique style that plays a crucial part in the band. The saxophonist opened the song as the cellist began tapping on his cello for the beat. The trumpetist then took note of the tempo and took it away with his airy tunes. The drummist picked up on the beat and played something not too harsh sounding but good enough to keep the tempo. The saxophonist switched to bluesy notes as he tried connecting with the trumpets sounds.

            There are a few things about the performance that were notably good. The number of instruments in the band was a good balance for the performance. Some performers were stronger than others, but it seems that the drummer was the core of the group. Every time the drummer wasnít playing a beat the other performers lost tempo. With the drummer constantly playing a beat for the tempo, it brought every instrument together and made them stronger in all. One thing that was quite unique was when the saxophonist tapped his feet to keep tempo, but not all of them had a way of keeping their tempo. The tapping of another personís foot is hard to hear and pay attention to so there is a lack of good timing. It is engaging when someone does something with their feet to make their own beat or use them as their own instrument. The tapping of the feet makes a difference in performance tempo and originality.

            The most interesting and creative song the Bottesini Project played was the light and airy music. This type of jazz gave a more calming vibe to begin with and moves around at different levels of sound. The lighter tone sounded better because the instruments werenít being overworked too much versus the song before when the instrument was being played too hard and lost its sound. The biggest engaging moment of the performance was the crescendo of the music moving. The instruments subtly went from a more quiet and calming tone to a louder and more powerful tone. This created the songs peak as each instrument caught on to the sound level that every other performer was playing at. An interesting thing caught the audienceís eye when the musician playing the trumpet pulled out the end of a toilet plunger and covered the end of the trumpet with it. The audience looked confused as they were trying to figure out what the piece does to the instruments sound. The toilet plunger covers the end of the trumpet to make a muted sound and is used to gradually pull the sound away from the trumpet making a different tone. Another thing that the audience noticed and questioned was the way the cello used both the bow and his fingers to create different sounds. Each way was used for different types of jazz songs and is made unique every time. 

            The band as a whole did not seem to mesh well together at some moments and was hard to believe that they have played together since 2006. As individuals, I would say most of them seem experienced enough to be professional, although sometimes it was not convincing. The audience seemed a bit detached from the performance and seemed to have a lack of interest while watching the performance. I personally did not vibe with this performance most likely because I have seen better jazz performers before. As someone who has learned a lot about music and performing, I would say they lack some skills. The band could use some modern teaching of the basics of music and learn how to mesh better. But, more practice as a group can help with that!

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