On Monday Oct. 14, USC’s Carson Sound Stage housed the Jazz Honors Combo, under the direction of faculty member Jason Goldman. Pianist Jacob Mann advertised it online as a “free” jazz show, pun very much intended. The night would be a tribute to the originator of the free jazz style, Ornette Coleman.
The combo was comprised of Mann, bassist John Snow, trumpeter J.J. Kirkpatrick, tenor saxophonist Rob Marshall and drummer Ana Barriero. While Professor Goldman is usually on stage during performances by the groups he directs, tonight he sat back and let the musicians be free.
The musical conversations playing out on stage were magnificent. The tunes introduced musical motifs but quickly diverged from them, allowing the musicians to really speak with their instrument, that is, until the players seamlessly revisited the motifs with slight alterations.
The second tune, “Robster’s Revenge,” was written by Marshall and was based off of a theme from Mario Kart, though he claimed he wasn’t responsible for the song’s title. Two songs later, they played another original tune, “Yoda’s Mushrooms,” written and titled by Mann.
The students commanded the stage that night and welcomed the audience into their music, which barely lived on the page. Other than the themes that began and ended each of the songs, the space in between was limitless and the musical color palettes that the students tapped into were unmistakably authentic. The tunes were easy to listen to and enjoy, even for those whose ears were not previously accustomed to such free music.