Last Thursday in the Vanderslice Cabaret room, Boston College’s renowned jazz band BC Bop! showed off its big brass instruments in formidable style—continuing even amid a campus-wide bomb threat. Delivering a melodic set of 10 bouncing, vivacious tracks, the band took time to highlight the individual talents of most of its members, while the band’s vocalists laid down fine-tuned, crisp ensembles and solos that stood entirely on their own as unique accompaniments to the performance. It was a hectic night at BC, and BC Bop! erased some of the tensity on Lower Campus, offering a necessary sense of comfort to many in the Cabaret room.
The show opened with “Take The ‘A’ Train,” a juicy romp that solidified the jazzy atmosphere for the entirety of the performance. Featuring a lovely trumpet solo, this track rocked the room to whistles and cheers from the intimately situated crowd. Though the first track did not feature the vocal ensemble, that group enthusiastically launched off in the next track, “Landed.” The weaving set list, from big band tracks to those featuring the vocal ensemble, kept things diverse and refreshing. Most big band and ensemble members had a chance to really show off what they brought to the group personally and the rotating highlights really contributed to the dynamic of the whole show.
One particular high point of the show was the band’s performance of Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” At first, when Mike Mastellone, CSOM ’18, strutted forward for his solo performance of the everlasting classic, it felt wrong that the entire ensemble did not get the chance to share the ballad, but Mastellone quickly proved that the song belonged to him and him alone. Mastellone had the crowd wrapped around his fingers with his stunning vocals and star-studded charisma. The big band build-up with the famous track was unlike any rendition of the song, even rivaling the original.
BC Bop! trailed through an impressive set-list featuring jazz classics like “Blues In Frankie’s Flat,” “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing,” and “That Cat Is High.” Throughout the performance, many members of the group displayed their versatility, switching between cello and bass or rotating through the percussions. If this adaptability wasn’t impressive enough, the shifting tone of the music really brought out the group’s talent. One track resonated with the atmosphere of a roaring 1920’s “Gatsby-esque” party, the next sounded like it was coming out of a Spanish salsa competition.
The show was filled with a barrage of sensational solo highlights from many members of the big band. It was also saturated with incredible energy from both the instrumentalists and the singers. Whether it was a trumpeter, saxophonist, pianist, cellist, or a combination of these, each track featured a chance for individuals to make themselves apparent to the crowd. Bop!’s seventh track, “Chu Cho,” showcased dynamic solo performances from several of the group’s brilliant saxophonists. Each additional saxophone solo did not sound like the performer was trying to upstage the last, but that each solo had its own style, composition, and vibe. Nothing screams “Jazz band” quite like a dazzling display of both dynamic camaraderie and personal talent.
Thursday’s performance was, in part, a dress rehearsal for BC Bop!’s impressive trip this weekend. The group headed down to New York City for the weekend to work with two renowned jazz performers, Tony Kadleck (working with instrumentals) and Jessica Molaskey (vocalist). They also performed at the ShapeShifter Lab in the city. For its Valentine’s Day performance, BC Bop! held onto most of the set that they performed in Vanderslice and added in a few extra hits like Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “September” (a track that would have fit in so well with their performance at BC).
BC Bop! Live! was an outstanding showcase of the jazz band’s varied talent and skill. Its setting provided intimacy between the performers and the audience that greatly contributed to both the liveliness of the crowd and the detailed displays of solos that were interspersed throughout the performance. Each song featured a unique tone and differentiation from its famous rendition that definitively mark BC Bop! as an originative jazz ensemble. Hopefully, BC Bop!’s well-placed time, effort, and talent that was displayed Thursday evening transfered over to its big performance in the city Saturday night.
Featured Illustration by Breck Wills