Sting Jazz Concert Adds Classical Twist to Pop Landmarks

Sting Jazz Concert

Gasson Hall recently hosted four jazz musicians—John Lockwood on bass; Brad Hatfield on piano; Gustavo Assis-Brasil on guitar; and Tom Lee, a music professor at Boston College, on flute—in an intimate and warm jazz concert. The soothing sounds of slow jazz worked nicely on the atmosphere of the audience—it was a calm, relaxed, and tightly-knit sort of crowd, a kind that was content to sit still for a long period of time and simply absorb the music moving all around them. Gasson 100 did much to contribute to this mood as well, as the welcoming lighting and small stage kept the concert both personal and added a gorgeous background to the whole event. The performance for the night featured a diverse range of talent. All of the musicians are well known in their fields, from being professors of music at Northeastern and the Berklee School of Music, to having composed nearly 200 solo works.

The musicians performed what they called the “Sting Variations,” adaptations of many classic songs by the former lead singer of the Police, from classic smash hits like “Every Breath You Take,” to more obscure pieces like “And Yet.” The true magic of the concert, however, was how the songs molded and blended together to form a coherent narrative of music. While they were all jazzy, featuring thumping walking bass lines and crisp flute melodies, all had their own unique character. There was a definite order to the individualism, however, with the performers choosing to go for a string of more slow, calm songs, and then follow them up with a jauntier tune.

Purely organic, the connection between the performers was on display at all times, as the melody flowed freely between the instruments, with it usually defaulting to Lee on the jazz flute. Special notice, however, has to be given to the solos performed by Hatfield on the piano, as his range of styles, tones, and expression was wonderful. He took a song’s theme and twisted it in innumerable ways, shaping it into something that flowed along with piece. The musical solos were buoyed by the delightful stage presence that all the performers exuded—personable and friendly, and constantly talking with the audience and each other. This casual style of performing did wonders to keep the audience interested and light hearted, especially when Lee would pause between songs for a short period of time and humorously give a brief description of the following piece. The minimal interruption between different pieces was key, and a very good move on the performers’ part, as it allowed the concert to be experienced as almost a perpetual string of music. The style of music lent itself to an interesting version of audience engagement. The audience was not hanging on the edge of their seats, eagerly anticipating the next guitar entrance or flute and piano harmony, but was rather more passively engaged, taking every chord and note as they came.

A beautiful, touching piece, “August Winds” was the perfect way to end the concert, sending everyone out on a mellow note. It gave audiences the image of a chill wind breezing through a New England farm somewhere, blowing around freshly fallen leaves of orange and red, signifying the immediate end of summer, fitting for October. It also stood out from many of the other pieces that were played in that it appeared to be more focused on improvisation. Each player seemed to feed off each other, producing solos that coalesced into an overall piece that was really quite special.

The repertoire was wonderful, and there couldn’t have been a better place for the concert than Gasson 100, flanked by soft orange lamps on all sides and a gorgeous mural behind the stage. The band showed its talent as a group to immense extents, but so did the individual artists themselves, as each one had myriad opportunities to through a variety of solos, on which they all capitalized beautifully. The audience walked out of Gasson on this day feeling happy, uplifted, and inspired to go seek out musical opportunities, to scratch that newly formed itch for coherent, freely choreographed, classic jazz.

Featured Image by Joshua Mentzer / Photo Staff