Together On the Off-Beat

Photo by Maxwell Reide.
Photo by Maxwell Reide.
Photo by Maxwell Reide.

This past Tuesday evening, Studley Theatre was the place to groove, with live music played by the very musicians who school their students—literally.

On Sept. 30, the SUNY New Paltz Department of Music hosted “All That Jazz,” an hour and a half-long faculty jazz concert. From students in the music department, to fellow faculty members and  community members, over 100 guests attended the concert, according to the ushers of the event.

An entirely faculty led show, the jazz performance included Mark Dziuba on the guitar, Vinnie Martucci playing piano, John Menegon on bass, Jeff Siegel on drums, David Savitsky on saxophone and Teri Roiger on vocals. The group covered the music of a variety of jazz musicians and made sure to add a personal touch to each song.

Some of the songs performed Tuesday evening included “Graffiti Blues” by Blue Mitchell, “First Song” by Charlie Haden,  “Wholly Earth” by Abbey Lincoln and “The Visit” by Pat Martino. The faculty members shared brief stories about the particular song’s musicians, their connection to the song, or the long-lasting impact the song has had on them since their young adulthood.

In her all-black ruffled shirt and skirt outfit, Roiger swayed from side to side as she graced the stage for several of the band’s performances, layering her vocals over the rest of the five musicians’ instruments. Prior to performing “Passion Dance” by McCoy Tyner, Martucci stood up from his piano bench and spoke to the audience about his experience with Tyner.

According to Martucci, his best friend was the president of the New Paltz Student Association while they were undergraduate students, and Martucci asked if his friend could have Tyner as the following semester’s musical guest.

“He played at SUNY New Paltz, I got to pick him up from the airport and he even gave me a piano lesson,” Martucci said. “Tyner was my personal hero.”

Following “Passion Dance” was “Talkin’ to the Sun” by Abbey Lincoln, who Roiger said is a “deep influence” for her. Roiger prefaced the song by stating that the song is one of Lincoln’s first recordings and had inspired her to make a cover album of Lincoln’s music. When they later performed “Wholly Earth,” also by Lincoln, Roiger pointed out that Lincoln’s music also inspired her to write songs of her own.

Jenny Liba, a fourth-year psychology major, attended the concert and said she really enjoyed the performance.

“I felt that it was very relaxing to listen to and a great thing to go and see after a long day of school,” Liba said. “I really enjoyed how each musician was able to have a song that would highlight their specific instrument and that showed off their playing ability.”

Jazz Society, a student collective that bridges the gap between jazz students and non-jazz students at the college, had several members attend the concert as well. Jazz Society President Danielle Roberts, a fourth-year jazz studies major, said she has had most of the musicians as professors and “it’s always amazing seeing what they teach in class come to life.”

“It makes me laugh every time I go to a faculty concert because of how unbelievably talented some of our music faculty are. Watching Menegon on the bass get into the groove of every song, seeing Dziuba play all of the different forms of improvisation that he teaches us in Jazz Improv and watching eccentric Martucci pound at the keys at an amazing speed with so much skill made the performance rich and colorful,” Roberts said.

Roberts was able to bring much of what she has learned through her classes and apply her knowledge of jazz to the concert.

“The accuracy of their timing was jaw dropping. For one of the songs they all began to play at the same time on the same beat. I have no idea how they knew exactly when to come in, and they were all on the same page. I guess it’s a lot of practice and working together,” Roberts said. “They also did a great job at listening to one another. When working in a group, it’s extremely important to listen to the other musicians so that everyone is on the same page.”

From the final notes of their performance through their standing ovation, the crowd lauded the musicians. Various audience members went up to the faculty to commend them.

Siegel said the group looks forward to their biannual shows “to play together and hopefully pass the inspiration on to the students.”

“I thought the performance was smokin’. We are all such good friends,” Dziuba said. “When we get together to play this type of music we revel in each other’s abilities.”

Martucci added that they’ve all played professionally together for at least 25 years and it’s always a “wonderful experience.”

“Hearing all that great playing and communication going on Tuesday night on stage for me is a thrilling experience I wish everyone could have,” Martucci said. “Besides being good friends and having just a blast on stage, I have the greatest respect for what everyone brings to their music as artists and teachers. It’s a gift to be a part of that.”