Sextet ready to record album
URBANA — A couple of years ago, University of Illinois graduate students Clark Gibson and Michael Fenoglio put together an ensemble, mainly to compete for the 2013 Downbeat Student Music Awards.
Well, check that off their list.
The venerable magazine-bible of jazz gave props in the graduate college jazz soloist category to Fenoglio, an alto and soprano saxophonist. And in the graduate college combo class, Downbeat placed the ensemble second, after one from the prestigious Eastman School of Music.
Fenoglio and Gibson's combo, later tagged the Old Style Sextet, is still together, performing at festivals, schools and around town, picking up fans along the way. One is Brooke Parson, a bartender at The Iron Post, Urbana. She said Old Style Sextet has good energy and audience response.
"They have a very good fan base, at least for us," she added. "I really dig their original compositions. And it's really nice to have a band full of music doctors, as it were."
Now the sextet, made up of five grad students and one undergrad, plans to record its first CD — with no less than Chip Stephens producing. Before joining the UI School of Music faculty, the jazz pianist performed with major jazz artists, among them Arturo Sandoval. Stephens continues to tour with other greats..
Stephens and Old Style will record the CD next month at the Transient Sound Recording Studio on Chicago's north side. Old Style will kick off next week its Kickstarter fundraising campaign to help cover costs associated with the project.
Expect it to be a great one.
Chip McNeill, head of the UI jazz studies program, gives Old Style high marks. He said since forming, the group has contributed much in the way of jazz-sextet arrangements of standards and their own original tunes.
"They're a very good band in regard to the playing and writing," he said. "They have also pursued jazz competitions and conference appearances along with competing for School of Music grants to support their educational goals, doing clinics and performances at schools and colleges around the area."
The UI School of Music came through, awarding Old Style an entrepreneurship seed grant to help with advertising and promotion. Gibson said any money the group makes at concerts and other engagements goes straight into the band fund, rather than being divvied up among members.
The sextet wants to book clinics and concerts for this fall. Earlier this month, Old Style performed and led a clinic at Millikin University in Decatur. It's also taught at Edison Middle School, Champaign, and other area schools.
"We all don't know exactly what we'll do next year," Fenoglio said. "The reason we're trying to push this group as much as we can now is hopefully our efforts will help us get together to do clinics and festivals, even if we move."
Five of the six Old Style members are receiving or have already received advanced degrees. They all performed professionally before they came here. Besides Fenoglio and Gibson, who both play sax, they are: Easton Stuard, piano; Euan Edmonds, trombone; and Matt Endres, drums.
Bassist Sam Peters, a UI senior and Champaign Central High alum, is the sole undergrad in the group.
"We have great chemistry," said Stuard, a DMA candidate in jazz piano. "We know how each other plays. We love playing and teaching together."
As for their music, the Old Style — the tag doesn't relate to the style of music they play but instead given to them by an Iron Post bartender — members prefer to call it just music, or American music. Not jazz.
Stuard believes the definition of jazz is broadening all the time, anyway. Younger musicians bring to jazz influences from hip-hop and other styles, and over the past 40 or 50 years elements of jazz have been mixed into other kinds of music, he said.
Said Gibson: "Even though our music is heavily influenced by jazz in part, it's accessible and we get good reports. People don't have to love John Coltrane to love what we do."
The Old Style Sextet doesn't have any gigs upcoming soon. So go online to hear them or for more information:
Facebook page: facebook.com/oldstylesextet
Recent live WEFT session: bit.ly/1qaGS1I.
A couple of tunes: