Jazz is live and alive at UTSA

Jake Mireles, Opinion Editor

The UTSA Jazz Ensemble held its first concert of the semester on Sunday, March 26, in the UTSA Recital Hall, located in the Arts Building. Performing a set list composed of traditional standards that reached across all eras of the golden age of jazz, the UTSA Jazz Ensemble gave an impressive performance reflecting well on the stellar music department here at UTSA. 

The ensemble started their set off strong with a classic Thad Jones standard, “Three In One.” With strong interjections from a skilled saxophone section and excellent volume control from the rhythm section, the ensemble embodied Jones and his orchestra in their concert debut. 

Next on the setlist was “Love For Sale” by Buddy Rich. The chart exhibited masterful technique from the rhythm section and interjections from the notorious Buddy Rich-style screamer trumpets. 

Then, changing pace for the third chart, the ensemble performed “Darn That Dream” by Dexter Gordon. Heavily featuring trombonist Ethan Gomes, the chart exhibited the ensemble’s ability to play slow and lyrical music with ease. 

Finally, the ensemble’s closer, “Take the ‘A’ Train” by Duke Ellington, showed off the ensemble’s exceptional tonal control at lower volumes and featured a stellar bass trombone solo that fully used the instrument’s extended lower range. 

The concert featured an impressive set of classic jazz standards, helping continue the ensemble’s mission of performing live jazz in the modern era. 

Ensemble Director Christopher Villanueva — a San Antonio native — has taught Jazz Studies at UTSA since 2019. Villanueva spoke on the importance of upholding the legacy of jazz legends in modern society due to the genre’s cultural and historical significance.

“I think it’s important to keep that culture alive,” Villanueva said. “I feel like it’s important to pay homage to [those] legends. And not only that, but the more and more we pay attention to our [predecessors], then the more we can start innovating and keep [jazz] going.”

The ensemble is composed of both music majors and non-music majors, speaking to the extreme dedication and diversity of the group. Saxophonist Zoe Pedroza — a senior business management major — spoke on the personal importance of performing jazz despite not being a music major. 

“It’s more freedom,” Pedroza said. “I get to play whatever I want, and if you play a wrong note, no one really notices because it’s jazz.”

The responsibility of upholding the legacy of a genre of music as notorious and significant as jazz is not an easy feat. Yet, the UTSA Jazz Ensemble has risen to the challenge. Jazz truly remains live and alive at UTSA.