WCSU presents Holiday Jazz and ‘A Baby Boomer Christmas’

Western’s Jazz Studies program presented its annual Holiday Jazz concert on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011, in Ives Concert Hall. Performing were Frankensax, directed by Andrew Beals; the WCSU Jazz Ensemble, directed by Dave Scott; and the Jazz Studio Orchestra, conducted by Jamie Begian.

Frankensax opened the show with Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” and arrangements of John Coltrane’s “Central Park North” and “Giant Steps.” The Jazz Ensemble followed with an arrangement of “Oh Christmas Tree” and a jazz tune featuring various members of the band.

After a brief intermission, the WCSU Jazz Studio Orchestra served up “A Baby Boomer Christmas.” Opening the set was an arrangement of “Sleigh Ride” (as sung by Andy Williams) featuring vocalist Ashleigh D’Addio, followed by a cover of Jimmy Webb’s immortal “Up, Up and Away” (as sung by the Fifth Dimension). Tenor saxophonist Dan O’Brien was featured on Jim McNeely’s “Absolution” and alto saxophonist Jason Fitch was featured on Billy Strayhorn’s “Isfahan.” After the ensemble tune, Frank Foster’s “Shiny Stockings,” the set closed with D’Addio singing another Andy Williams arrangement: “Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland.”

Music Department Chair and Coordinator of Jazz Studies Jamie Begian explained the concept behind “A Baby Boomer Christmas.” “I always loved those old variety shows from the ’60s, particularly the holiday-themed ones that Andy Williams used to put on every year. As I became more astute musically I gradually realized the incredible production values and artistry that went into those shows and how that was becoming a lost art. ‘A Baby Boomer Christmas’ is my attempt to recreate those performances and keep them relevant to our students as an important part of the culture of jazz/popular music in America. The sound of the strings and choir with the regular Jazz Orchestra is pretty cool, too!”

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Assistant Professor of Music Jamie Begian leads the WCSU Jazz Orchestra.