In many respects, jazz has passed its prime. Like the American film western or baseball as the national pastime, jazz is a medium of “the good old days.” But a few times each semester, BC bOp! brings it back and reminds us why it was the national soundtrack for so long and how it’s influenced some of our favorite pop hits.
BC bOp!, Boston College’s supreme jazz band, gathered in the Vanderslice Cabaret Room on Friday night. The band alternated between classical jazz pieces that featured collective and singular instrumentation, and modern hits with jazz inspiration—hits such as “September,” “Come Fly with Me,” and the more recent “Uptown Funk.” BC bOp!, though, was at its best when it fronted its robust sound with a dynamic vocal performance.
No one left more blood, sweat, and tears out there on the stage than Mike Mastellone, CSOM ’18 on “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” Halfway through the hour and set change, Mastellone let loose an electric “I love you baby!” It was one of the instances in which a sparse arrangement from band fit into the performance. In this instance, it seemed as if bOp! was simply a backing band to Mastellone up front, strutting across the front of the Cabaret stage. But as bOp! had proved earlier in the show, and would continue to prove, bOp! is bigger than all of them, all of us.
In “Hay Burner” and “Moonglow” early in the set, and then again in “Cafe Caliente,” the band treated the audience filling most of the Cabaret floor and lining the terrace above to a full body of jazz flavor. “Hay Burner” and “Moonglow” were driven from back by Max Warwick, CSOM ‘16, and Sanjay Pamaar, MCAS ‘16, on the drums, a tune that seemed to roll down from the percussion section, through the brass and sax and into the crowd. “Cafe Caliente” was more straightforward but featured the best solo of the night from Marie Peduto, MCAS ’18, on the saxophone. Peduto rose out her chair in the center of the sax row and seamlessly moved from high to low, a quick pace to a slow one. She sat back down to rousing applause.
Some other crowd favorites were predictably “September” and “Footloose.” “September” featured “the guys”—Mastellone, Adam Fung, MCAS ’16, and Ryan Silva, MCAS ’17, on vocals, as well as Kyle Murray, CSOM ’16, and John Kiefer, MCAS ’19, on bass who’re usually left providing the rhythm to bOp!’s jazzier selections. But here, they drove the song and it was a pleasant change of pace. “September” and “Footloose” are celebration songs, and bOp! celebrates pretty damn well.
But BC bOp!’s finest collaboration, its finest celebration, was in a cover of Paul Simon’s “Late in the Evening.” It was the show’s best mix of slick percussion, brass, and sweet vocal harmonies. But as collaborative and clean as “Late in the Evening” felt, “Uptown Funk” was in many ways its opposite at the end of the set. Covering “Uptown Funk” makes all the sense in the world as the jazziest hit in recent memory, but for whatever reason, didn’t work on Friday. It’s not that it felt like bOp! was selling out or going “mainstream.” It’s the fact that it’s Bruno Mars’ vocals that drive that particular sound more than some jazzy flair. “Uptown Funk” was still fun, but just didn’t reach the bar that bOp! had set with it’s earlier covers.
Jazz may not be back in the fullest sense, but every so often when bOp! brings it back, we’re reminded, maybe the good ol’ days were actually pretty good.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins