MTSU’s faculty performed a small concert honoring renowned bandleader and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler on Monday night.
The concert worked not only as a tribute to the recently-deceased musician but also as a welcoming escape from the cold with its warm and often complex musical arrangements.
The intimate show, held in the T. Earl Hinton Music Hall on campus, featured an assortment of Wheeler’s harmoniously rich compositions as well as standout performances from the jazz quintet.
The concert began with the autumnal “Everybody’s Song But My Own,” a piece which featured beautiful, bittersweet piano melodies, sparse snowy percussion and soaring solos from Mike Parkinson (trumpet and flugelhorn) and Don Aliquo (tenor and soprano saxophone). These elements become recurring motifs throughout the concert.
This arrangement led into the appropriately titled “Gentle Piece,” which began with a hypnotic, softly strummed bass-solo from Jim Ferguson, and turned into an atmospheric jazz landscape canvased by the wintery notes of Pat Coil’s piano.
After this song came the intricate, subdued tune “Smatter,” which concluded with a manic solo from drummer Derrek Phillips. And then after came the show’s main highlight, a tender romantic piano ballad called “Winter Suite,” which featured ethereal lyrics and a tender vocal performance from Ferguson.
The show ended on a spiritual note with the quintet performing a rendition of the traditional Christian hymn “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” The song featured some of the most impressive and passionate solos of the night—the most memorable being Aliquo’s intense, fire-breathing solo towards the backend of the song.