Galen - In The Tradition
In late August I had the pleasure of attending my first live jazz performance, Galen - In The Tradition at the beautiful San Bernardino Valley College auditorium. This performance was actually the soft opening of the newly remodeled auditorium, which left quite an impression on me. This concert was presented by the Arts, Lecture and Diversity Committees of San Bernardino Valley College.
The concert was a showcase of the musical talents of Galen Abdur-Razzaq, a nationally recognized jazz floutist, and his band. His band members were Clayton Cameron on drums, Darek Oleszkiewicz on the contra bass, and Kevin Toney on Piano. Galen plays multiple instruments, including the piccolo and saxophone and has been playing the flute since the late 60’s. Galen is an arranger, composer, director, educator, and writer who has worked with musicians all over the world.
The venue offered a calm setting set off by soft lighting of blue, purple, with the occasional shades of red accompanied by a light fog. It was an intimate setting neither too large nor too small for the performance, which was only half filled by guests. The artists were in black clothing which, in a way, caused the silhouettes of the performers to fade into the background allowing the instruments to become the main focus as they popped out of the darkness.
Galen was a "cool cat" as he smoothly moved across stage throughout the performance behind his dark shades and soft voice. Galen was quite the storyteller as well, providing the audience of a detailed history of the music and why it was important to him and the history of jazz. It was very interesting to hear how the history of jazz, as he saw and experienced it throughout his life, was so closely related to the history of rock and roll itself. You can see many of the themes he presented played out in rock and roll throughout history and even today. From the drum solo’s to the piano melodies and even the descriptions of the artists themselves, this concert was not only a travel through jazz history, but rock and roll history as well.
It was interesting to see music we have all heard throughout our lives played out live. To see each instrument create magic on the stage was truly a joy. The smooth bass from the contra bass set the mood while Kevin on the piano and Clayton on the drums brought it all together which laid the path for the remarkable skills of Galen on the flute. I was a huge fan of Clayton Cameron and his drumming abilities. His beats had me tapping my feet throughout the performance.
I enjoyed all of the songs that were performed, but there were three that really spoke to me. I enjoyed “Moanin” written by Bobby Timmons, which incorporated popping and humming sounds while Galen played the flute. I also enjoyed “Straight, No Chaser” written by Barry Harris, which was an uptempo song which featured a lively back and forth with drums and the contra bass. My favorite song, however, was “Sound for Sore Ears” written by Jimmy Heath, which featured an amazing drum solo by the very talented Clayton Cameron. This song and drum solo were definitely the highlight of the evening for me.
The audience members were warm and welcoming of the performers and their performances, applauding for every break and every solo. There were plenty of people around me steadily tapping their feet and bobbing their heads to the music throughout the night. The crowd was engaged because the performers themselves were engaged, especially Galen, as he provided a background of the performance. It was interesting to see how enthusiastic and passionate the performers were while playing. You could feel their excitement in the auditorium, especially from Clayton the drummer.
This was an amazing experience which, for me, shed a new light on jazz, which I had never really listened to in the past. The performance has left me wanting to hear more jazz, and has given me a great appreciation for the history of jazz. Galen and his band members showcased raw emotion and the purest love for music that left me yearning for more.