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Gigabytes of talent

Published: Monday, March 20, 2006

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

In its most anticipated concert of the year, Boston College's elite jazz band BC bOp! rocked and jazzed out with a little help from Apple's iPod as part of this year's theme, ibOp! Titled "Which ibOp are you?", the concert brought together traditional jazz themes with more modern ones, namely that of modern technology. "BC bOp! will rip and burn tunes all night," said Kristin Bowes, assistant director of bands at BC and BC '00. They did not disappoint - the show was an upbeat, energetic mixture of more traditional jazz songs mixed with contemporary ones, with a splash of the modern marvel of the iPod thrown in.

Brightly-colored signs and banners around campus advertised for the show, with a large banner displayed in both the Quad and on the Commonwealth Avenue parking garage. The four variations of banners featured four different people in silhouette with a brightly colored background behind them. The people in the ads are actually members of BC bOp!, and they were photographed specifically for the event by Media Technology Services, said Bowes. One of the most eye-catching of the banners was that of Ross Donovan, A&S '06, who was portrayed on his knees in an apparent outpouring of feeling and enthusiasm while playing the trumpet, with a bight purple background behind him. His trumpet was in white while his silhouette was in black, which is similar to the iPod campaign where the iPod and headphone cords are the only things in white.

The show began with the piece "Oleo," composed by Sonny Rollins. This up-tempo piece was characterized by short and fast-paced rhythms throughout the song. The energy of the band was apparent, particularly in pianist Kyle Elligers, A&S '06, who couldn't keep to his piano bench as he was so obviously into the music.

Several of the songs were played with a Latin feel to them, such as "Just Friends," composed by John Klenner and Sam Lewis, and "It Don't Mean a Thing," composed by Duke Ellington and Irving Mills. "Just Friends" was performed by a small jazz combo comprised of the bass, drums, and piano. Elligers arranged his own solo, which other bOp! members did for other songs in the repertoire, displaying their abilities to not only perform, but also to innovate. "It Don't Mean a Thing" is a more well-known song that has been sung by many different people, from Ella Fitzgerald to Tony Bennett. The vocal section of bOp! did an excellent job of capturing the energy that Ellington must have had in mind when he wrote the piece. "Ellington's original was strictly swing. Harris added a bunch of Latin and even a funk section. It was a very unconventional and interesting arrangement," said bassist Adam Shulman, executive board member and A&S '07. The audience in particular seemed to enjoy these pieces, as many could be seen bobbing their heads and tapping their feet to the rhythm, followed by a loud, enthusiastic applause after the songs were over.

Two other pieces that drew a large audience response were "C.B. Express" and "Basie - Straight Ahead," both composed by Sammy Nestico. The "C.B." stands for Count Basie, who was a leading figure in the swing era of jazz and the big band movement, and whose band played the pieces in the distinctive Count Basie style of hard swing. The songs had a very upbeat, fast tempo. "C.B. Express" had a very strong solo by trombonist Julie Grimes, A&S '07, which displayed her incredible talent as a musician. Her solo had a very smooth sound to it and received a strong audience response after the song was over and she stood up to be acknowledged.

The concert also had several slower ballads. The most notable was "Miss Otis Regrets," composed by Cole Porter. The song, popularized by the upbeat Bette Midler swing version, was in its original form as a slow ballad. The talent of vocalist Cara Campanelli, A&S '09, was particularly displayed by her solo singing of this song.

Another high note came when "Over the Rainbow," composed by Harold Arlen, was performed. The backdrop, which changed colors for each song and generally represented the tone of the piece being played (warmer colors, like red and orange, for faster pieces and cooler colors, like blue, for the slower songs were used), was actually a rainbow, and it was easy to picture Judy Garland singing the song in The Wizard of Oz, even though there were no vocals on this version. Trombonist Jon Romiti, A&S '08, had a particularly strong solo in this song.

"Haitian Fight Song," composed by Charles Mingus, really got the audience moving. Shulman had a funky bass solo, which got even some of the members of the ensemble snapping their fingers to the beat. The song was a powerful, invigorating piece, which was fast and loud with so many things going on at once.

In addition to the music, bOp! always performs several skits during the show relating to the theme, and this year's skits were particularly funny. One of the funniest was at the beginning of the show, when vocalist Greg Gagnon, A&S '06, danced and grooved his way onto the stage, with a bight green backdrop being held by another group member moving along behind him.

"My ibOp is green," he said, striking a pose. Several other members came out with their own "ibOps," and the skit received big laughs as the performers switched iPods with humorous results, such as the band beginning to play "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion when Elligers was pushed into another person's ibOp. Another of the skits involved a 6-foot-tall cardboard iPod, with band members playing various songs behind the viewing screen as Shulman told bandmate Ryan Coyne, A&S '07, that he was going to the gym and he had some great music to listen to.

Conductor Sebastian Bonauito announced to the audience that Elligers had won a prestigious solo jazz piano competition at the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival in February. The huge honor was bestowed on Elligers when the band traveled to Moscow, Idaho for the annual festival, which bOp! plays in every year. The band competes with hundreds of other jazz ensembles from around the country, and many famous jazz musicians attend each year. In addition to Elliger's accomplishment, the five-member vocal section placed second in their multi mic jazz vocal competition.

BC bOp! will be performing again at the annual BC Arts Festival on April 27, and it will be sure to be a swinging good time.

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