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Unifying hip hop and jazz, student musicians

Nick Ward and the band rehearsing in Bucksbaum. Photo by Joanna Silverman.

Tonight at 8 p.m. in Herrick Chapel, hip-hop and jazz music combine for a collaborative performance hosted by KDIC and the Music Department called “Time Stands Still”—a performance by rapper Nick Ward ’14 and a supporting live band. The ensemble is made up of Dan Ehrlich ’14 on saxophone, Luke Panciera ’16 on trumpet, Arthur Richardson ’14 on trombone, Micah Nelson ’14 on guitar, Thomas Earnest ’16 on bass and Vincent Kelley ’16 on drums.

Thirteen of Ward’s original songs will be featured, including cuts from his first project, 2011’s “Whim Chasin’” and his more recent 2012 release, “Entermission,” as well as three completely new, never-before-heard songs. Ehrlich took the producer-crafted beats of these songs and arranged them for the live brass ensemble.

“I know it’s exciting for me to have my music transformed in this way,” Ward said. “It’s a different sound. … [The hope is] to give people a sense of what can happen when you mix jazz music and hip-hop.”

The arrangements that Ehrlich first gave the band were very minimal.

“I took the instrumentals and boiled them down to the core of what they are—are they a single melodic idea, is it a drum pattern, is it these chord changes, what is it that makes this instrumental what it is? And then I wrote that out,” he said. “Each song has different amounts of detail in it.”

The rest of the music comes from experimentation during rehearsals and improvisation.

“We really try to keep things loose and responsive,” Ehrlich said. “Part of the arranging process was understanding where things can be loose and where things need to not be loose.”

To get the band together, Ehrlich contacted musicians he knew from Music Department ensembles and other places on campus. They began rehearsing for the show in late January.

“There have been late nights, but we’ve made a lot of progress really quickly,” Ward said.

Ehrlich attributes this to the impressive skills of the musicians.

“Almost everybody in the band is able to solo and work within a solo context—we’re a bunch of jazz musicians,” he said. “We’re lucky to be working with a really, really talented group of improvisers. … That, more than anything, is what is going to make this successful.”

The creation of the band and rehearsals alone were major benefits of this endeavor.

“[We’re] creating a new form of unity between people involved with music on campus,” said organizer and KDIC Station Manager Daniel Kisslinger ’14. “Especially for music majors, they don’t really get practice in the experience of actually playing a gig, so one of the things we’re trying to do is get people experience with what it’s like to be a working musician, whether it’s in rehearsal for a session or performing with actual sound people and doing sound checks. Stuff like that.”

Professional sound technicians are being brought in to work the show, as well as a few unnamed special guests. All organizers involved hope this will be the beginning of more live student performances on campus.

“I’m most looking forward to the energy that hopefully we can create: through me, the band, the people in the audience, the public,” Ward said. “Hopefully after this, more people that want to perform as live bands will get their chance in a space like [Herrick].”

The performance title sums up what Ehrlich is most anticipating for this performance.

“The most exciting part of every performance for me ever is the first note, when you realize that there’s a group of people who have come to see you or something you’re a part of,” he said. “For that one second, you have everybody’s attention … it’s like time stops.”

Nick Ward and the band rehearsing in Bucksbaum. Photo by Joanna Silverman.
Nick Ward and the band rehearsing in Bucksbaum. Photo by Joanna Silverman.
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