Last Thursday, April 5, three student-based small combos from the University of South Carolina Upstate took over the local jazz club called Blues Boulevard and played excellent sets of material for the packed room. This kind of "real" gigging experience is a direct outcome of the emphasis on commercial music skills found at USC Upstate. Their music majors are not only trained to perform, but given guidance on how to manage a career and what to expect from performance venues typically found in jazz.
Blues Blvd. played the perfect host by allowing the local university groups a place to stretch their wings. The club surely enjoyed seeing so many bodies in the room and we all hope to see the collaboration repeated in the future.
|USC Upstate Vocal Jazz Group directed by Dr. Tish Oney|
|Jazz Combo directed by Shannon Hoover|
The closing act of the evening is called the "Commercial Music Combo," directed by guitarist and full-time faculty member Adam Knight. The group focuses on learning gig-ready material across various popular genres and this semester they've tackled the Beatles. Although the set list fell outside the jazz spectrum heard in the earlier groups, it's exciting to see a younger group of musicians having such a good time playing the classic music. Highlights definitely include "Come Together," "Don't Let Me Down," and their closer "Hey Jude." The guitarist in the group, John Gibson, wins the prize for bringing in the noisiest support group that never let his riffs go by unloved.
|Commercial Music Combo directed by Adam Knight|
This May will mark the first graduating class of Commercial Music majors from the program at USC Upstate and this night of music at Blues Boulevard bodes well for their prospects and for those of their classmates. Jazz is sometimes a tough sell in Spartanburg and a rare specialty for musicians of the twenty-something crowd. But, as seen and heard on this recent night, the local community has the opportunity to swing madly whenever they have the chance to hear music this good.
[On another topic, my Johnny Hartman biography has been typeset and is in the process of being indexed. We're still on schedule for an early summer release and a book reading/signing is in the works for July 10 in Spartanburg. More details to come.]