UI’s Gold Jazz Combo performs on International Jazz Day

On the afternoon of Saturday, April 30, the University of Iowa Gold Jazz Combo brought a variety of entertaining jazz music to those in attendance. The combo featured a guitarist, bassist, drummer, and two saxophonists.

Contributed.

Contributed.

Anaka Sanders, Arts Reporter


The Gold Jazz Combo’s alto saxophonist received a big laugh from the crowd after looking jokingly at his watch, to see that it was only 1 p.m. in the afternoon.

“How’s everyone doing tonight?” said Sam Ross, a member of the Gold Jazz Combo, one of the University of Iowa’s small group ensembles in the jazz department. 

Tucked away in the Voxman Music Building is the Stark Opera Studio, where the ensemble performed their spring concert on Saturday, April 30. The combo is under the direction of James Dreier, an associate professor of jazz instruction, and his co-director, Askar Khaetov, who also works as a teaching assistant in the jazz department. 

Before the music began, the intimate stage held only a light blue patterned rug and a set of sparkly navy bongos, foreshadowing the upcoming afternoon of complementary blues-style music. 

Dreier kicked off the combo by announcing that April 30 is International Jazz Day. He handed off the show to Khaetov, the bassist of the program, before stating that one thing he’s gotten good at over his 21 years of working at the UI is “delegating.”

Off the bat, tenor saxophonist Cole Dermo dove into an emotional upbeat solo in the piece “Split Kick,” followed by solos from each of the five ensemble artists. Guitarist Elias Smith strummed his instrument in a stoic, deep way, allowing the audience to feel it in their body.

The band then stopped their beats to allow Khaetov a moment alone with his bass, which he plucked the strings with incredible speed. Unlike the guitarist, drummer Carson Milledge smiled joyfully as he used every part of the drum kit to complete his solo. 

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The warmth of the upbeat, jazzy tune flowed easily into their next piece, “Red Clay.” Khaetov explained that this was his favorite piece in the ensemble’s performance, because of its jazz-rock fusion, rather than just a straight-ahead jazz song. 

The tropical beach ambiance of the song was brought to life by the saxophonists, playing runs — the playing of notes up and down the scale at a high pace — until they were both red in the face. 

From there, the group slowed down the afternoon with their performance of “Misty,” a piece arranged by Ross to help him learn to phrase melodic lines. Ross began the piece with an airy saxophone solo, the group slowly joining in behind him. The audience swayed with every note.

Happily enjoying the music from the corner of the room, Dreier then joined the rest of the band to play the bongos in their next piece, a Latin jazz tune titled “Black Orchid.” 

Prior to the show, Dreier said he was most looking forward to this portion of the performance. Dreier is also set to retire from his position next week, which made this performance even more special for him. 

“What’s nice about the final concert, is that your work is done, basically,” Dreier said. “You can sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor, and that goes for everybody, all the musicians.” 

The combo closed with a fast-paced song titled “Boogie Stop Shuffle,” arranged by drummer Milledge. Each artist gave the final uplifting, smile-inducing tune their all. 

Not wanting the concert to end, Milledge could be seen asking his bandmates if they wanted to play “one more time,” after the final song’s end. 

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