Odd combination travels to New Orleans to share soulful music
By Brett Land
Take a walk in the French Quarter in downtown New Orleans and jazz music is sure to come trickling out of the buildings to fill the streets and your ears. The sound is produced by a group of men and women connected by one thing: music.
A group of musicians on campus worked hard to achieve the oneness that it takes to play flawless jazz tunes. After months of practice, the jazz ensemble and women’s chorus hit the road on a four-day tour to New Orleans, La.
In March the two musical groups performed at various schools and churches in Houston, Slidell, La. and Baton Rouge, La. They concluded their tour with a final campus concert in Hughes Recital Hall.
The women’s chorus, made up of 17 singers from the university, performed several songs, including one accompanied by a solo clarinet and one accompanied by the jazz combo.
The ensemble is formed by 21 musicians. They played several upbeat tunes such as “Jazz Police” by Gordon Goodwin, “Louisiana Be- Bop” by Les Hooper and “Lisette” by Sammy Nestico. Heads were bobbing and toes were tapping.
Director Nils Landsberg, admitted that before the last performance that the women’s chorus and jazz band touring together was a bit strange, but, still enjoyable.
“It’s kind of a weird combination,” Landsberg said. “But, (it’s) a real treat.”
He was pleased with the conclusion of the tour and noticed that the musicians were excited to play the last show.
“The energy was like nothing else,” he said.
Landsberg said that the four days of playing the same music didn’t bore the performers.
He said, “The tour really lit a fi re under them, and they had more energy than ever.”
Landsberg wasn’t the only one who noticed it. Sophomore church music major and bass player for the ensemble Nick Arbuckle agreed.
“It was our best one yet,” he said.
For him, the band started clicking throughout the trip to Louisiana and by the time they returned home were playing together like never before.
“Coming off the tour, we are comfortable with each other’s sound,” Arbuckle said. “We are all one unit, you know, one train.”
Arbuckle says he loves trying to impress the people he shares the stage with and being impressed by their skill.
He said, “It’s great to see the excitement on everyone’s face.”
The jazz musicians were blown away by one man in particular, Joseph Harris.
He is a trumpet player from Los Angeles, Calif. and has a bachelor’s degree in music education from California State University in Fullerton. He has played with performers such as Tony Bennett, LeAnn Rimes, and The Temptations and was a member of the Tony Award winning show Blast!
This is his second consecutive year to play with the jazz ensemble on campus. He saw how far they had come since he performed with them in 2009.
“They have improved so much over the year,” Harris said.
He enjoys making the trip to Texas and wants to come back to perform with the Crusaders again in the future.
“I love coming to play, and I especially love Texas barbeque,” he said.
Arbuckle says he had a hard time playing with Harris simply because of his high talent level.
“It’s hard to focus because you want to just stop and listen to him,” Arbuckle said.
Although playing with a musician of that caliber can be distracting, it can also be encouraging.
“He inspires us all to play better,” Arbuckle said.
The ensemble finished its tour in style. Harris was excited to see how much better the musicians played throughout the tour.
He said, “I was impressed.”