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Ensemble masters music of Steely Dan

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Mark Masters prepares to conduct his ensemble during sound check for the concert “Everything You Did” in Morgan Auditorium April 26. The concert featured soloists Billy Harper on tenor saxophone, Tim Hagans on trumpet, Gary Smulyan on baritone saxophone, Peter Erskine on drums and Sonny Simmons on alto saxophone. / photo by Warren Bessant

Mariela Patron
Staff Writer

The Mark Masters Ensemble brought live jazz music April 26 to Morgan Auditorium in a concert that made music fans tap their feet.

The concert, titled “Everything You Did,” featured Mark Masters’ compositions and his interpretation of songs from 1970s band Steely Dan, composed by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen.

“We need people we’ve never seen before to embrace this music,” Masters said.

Jazz came into full swing from the first song they played by perfect harmonies and uplifting notes.

Trumpet player, Tim Hagans, displayed his ability by playing a solo with such high notes that his face turned red.

“We’ve expanded things and put our own stamp on them,” Masters said.

The ensemble brought the energy down with the ballad “Fire in the Hole.”

The ballad began with a vibes solo and was joined by the English horn.

Hagans walked to the front of the stage and played another solo as the sound softly resonated throughout the song.

With the vibes, the ballad concluded just as calm as it began.

In the song “Josie,” saxophone soloist Billy Harper joined the ensemble.

Harper swayed back and forth as he played his black tenor saxophone with full sound and speed.

Hagans later joined Harper with his own solo.

“If the guys (Becker and Fagen) would hear this they would probably not recognize their own music,” Masters said.

Another song that featured Harper and Hagans as soloists was “Show Biz Kids.”

The song began with the trumpet section releasing notes in unison followed by two trombones.

Harper and Hagans concluded the song by joining in harmony and ending it with a decrescendo of sustained notes.

The ensemble created a comfortable environment by telling anecdotes to connect with the audience.

Masters said that he now uses vibes instead of a piano because piano players never played what he wanted.

The song “Charlie Freak” was supposed to feature jazz saxophone soloist Sonny Simmons , but at the beginning of the performance Simmons apologized and left the stage.

Despite this the ensemble went on and featured eerie wind chimes.

The trumpets played music that seemed to be out of a suspenseful movie and went along well with the atmosphere created by the wind chimes.

Masters said that the lyrics to “Charlie Freak” are dark and show despair.

“The improvisation of sax and trumpet were very emotional and moody,” said Cheryl Redman, resident of La Quinta and jazz fan.

The ensemble also played some blues with the song “Chain Lightning,” which featured a trombone solo with a mute, giving the instrument a whiny sound.

In the song “Do It Again,” the ensemble displayed variety by starting the song with a bassoon and vibes.

The song also featured collaboration between bass, battery and a shaker.

“My dad liked it (jazz music) but this is a melding from things I know,” Redman said.

“The interpretation of the music in most of the tunes was abstract but I understood the abstractness,” Fred Dotson, fan of Steely Dan, said.

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