Oswego Jazz Project

In another installment of the Focus on Faculty series, Oswego State’s faculty jazz group, the Oswego Jazz Project, took the stage this past Sunday.

OJP often has rotating bassists, as their usual bassist, alumnus Max McKee has availability issues, so they often bring in local talent. This time around, they went right to their own school for Danny Ziemann.

Ziemann, a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, has been teaching bass lessons at Oswego State since spring 2013, though this is his first jazz concert here. He said the concert gave his students proof he actually does play, though all of his students get regular demonstrations of his impressive technique. Displays of that technique and musicianship were regular throughout the concert, in his bass lines, melody and solos. Also on display was his sense of humor, as he made his fellow band mates laugh throughout the show.

Ziemann has a strong classical background and teaches his students both jazz and classical bass. He also took up the mantle of the school’s cello instructor, teaching one student this semester. Some of his students were surprised, having seen Ziemann play the prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite I. With this background, Ziemann is an exceptionally strong playing arco (with the bow), and he teaches both jazz and classical bass, in addition to playing arco solos in a jazz context.

Ziemann will also be taking the plunge into the writing world. He is writing a book detailing his methods and examples. He will be using the book in his lessons and will be selling it to anyone who wants it. Ziemann hopes to release the book late this year or early next year.

The concert itself, as are many OJP concerts, was an opportunity to showcase each musician as well as play jazz from different eras and styles. Each player typically takes a solo in each piece, aside from Eric Schmitz on drums, who takes fewer solos given the nature of his instrument. This concert was unique however, in that the most recent piece was an original from Ziemann, and it was the only original of the group.

Those unfamiliar with jazz can probably imagine a piano or a saxophone solo but are unsure of what a bass solo would be like. Despite all the jokes that are made about bass solos, they can be incredible to watch and listen to. Ziemann exhibited his incredible playing speed for an instrument known to be unwieldy, as well as playing double stop (two strings at once) very effectively, both playing pizzicato (plucked) and arco.

OJP, particularly Schmitz, like to take breaks between songs to discuss what they are playing, what they are going to play and a little about the genre itself. Schmitz discussed the jazz quartet group (piano, bass, drums, horn), and a little of jazz history. A very young member of the audience enjoyed it, and every time the baby made a little cry, Schmitz triumphantly said, “Young jazz!”

The pieces of the night revolved around the 1960s and the bebop era, the exceptions being “Old Places” by Ziemann, “Pools” by Don Grolnick, “Invitation” from Polish film composer Bronislau Kaper, and “Over the Rainbow” by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. Over the Rainbow was a particular highlight, as it was a solo piano piece Auler dedicated to his daughter in the audience, saying she knew this as “the bedtime song.”

Other pieces played were “Strollin’” by pianist Horace Silver, “One by One” by saxophonist Wayne Shorter, “Del Sasser” by bassist Sam Jones, “The Sidewinder” by trumpeter Lee Morgan and “Three and One” by trumpeter Thad Jones.

It was a wonderful concert to inaugurate Ziemann as a playing member of the Oswego faculty, as well as a great continuation of the Focus on Faculty series.