Coast Jazz Orchestra’s final show of the season to feature Bill Lowe, ensemble


Lowe’s Signifyin ‘Natives will perform alongside the avant-garde student jazz group from Dartmouth.

by Alejandro Morales | 11/11/21 2:00 a.m.

Source: Courtesy of the Media Production Group

The Coast Jazz Orchestra will be holding their third concert of the quarter today at 9 p.m. at Collis Common Ground. Jazz musician Bill Lowe and his ensemble, the Signifyin ‘Natives, will join the student group. Lowe has performed with avant-garde musicians such as Henry Threadgill and Muhal Richard Abrams, but has also collaborated with jazz musicians such as Frank Foster and Thad Jones.

Jayanth Uppaluri ’24, a percussionist with the group, remarked that the return to normalcy had a positive impact on the orchestra after an 18-month hiatus, reflecting the growth that occurred during the time of the separation from the group.

“All of us who have played during COVID have improved,” Uppaluri said.

Coast director Taylor Ho Bynum, who is also the songwriter of two songs on today’s setlist, echoed the sentiments on the dynamics of this quarter.

“These days, I savor every drop of performance with my students,” said Bynum. “[The pandemic] was a very powerful reminder of the need to produce sound and to connect with each other in this beautiful and fleeting place that we call music.

The Coast sits on the avant-garde end of the genre. Inspired by revolutionary artists like Charles Mingus and Sun Ra, he will bring to the Collis Center typically unseen sounds and unorthodox jazz instruments, according to Bynum, allowing the orchestra to break accepted jazz conventions.

“We can bring in influences from other genres, other cultures, and allow ourselves to show people that jazz can be more than what they’ve heard,” Uppaluri says.

Within Coast, the instrumentation typical of a jazz orchestra overturns the traditional mix of saxophones, trombones, trumpets and rhythm, adding more unexpected instruments such as mbria, bassoon and cello, as well as a section of percussion for six people.

“Due to the six-person percussion section, we can complete [one of the songs on the set list] in a traditional West African style, solo percussion section ”, explains Uppaluri. “It adds a whole new dimension to the song.”

Cool classic jazz fan Malik Terrab ’25 plans to attend the concert for the unorthodox coast style.

“I feel like I don’t know exactly what to expect, and that kind of turns me on,” Terrab says. “Any avenue of art where the form is quite free is really exciting because so much could come out of it; there are so many opportunities for things to happen.

Bynum said the rib theme this quarter focuses on strengthening relationships between past and current orchestra members.

” So many [these relationships were] broken up, ”Bynum said. “The shift in tradition, culture and vibe that naturally occurs when you play in a band has completely changed. ”

For this reason, earlier this term, Bynum invited alumni Noah Campbell ’21, a former Coast saxophonist, and Mali Obomsawin ’18, a former Coast professional bassist and musician, as well as two colleagues to play with the Coast in a performance.

Bynum hopes to end the tenure by working with Lowe, who he says was his first mentor in high school.

“We have been friends and collaborators for over 30 years now; it’s an integral part of my musical life, ”said Bynum. “To have the chance to bring the whole here here the same term that I brought the whole of Mali here means a lot to me.”

Bynum said Signifyin ‘Natives is an intergenerational mix of musicians.

“Music crosses generations… relationships don’t end in the classroom,” Bynum said.

Although audiences listen to music from the jazz tradition, Uppaluri and Bynum hope listeners will walk away with much more.

“There is nothing quite like playing for a crowd,” Uppaluri said. “You feed yourself somehow [the crowd’s] energy.”

This concert will be Coast’s third time this quarter, although pre-pandemic, the band would perform one or two concerts per quarter, according to Bynum. A majority of the group’s musicians have not performed on a live stage with the Coast until this term.

“We have to make some of this connective tissue that’s always been implicit, explicit,” Bynum said.

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Henry R. Wright