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Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Bob Washut and Jazz Band One

George Clinton and P-Funk wasn't the only concert I attended last weekend. Friday night I went to see Jazz Band One, widely regarded as one of the top college jazz bands in the country. I've been going to their concerts since I came to school here, and this might have been my final one. I didn't realize it until I got there, but what was billed as a "normal" Jazz Band One concert was turned into an event called "Celebrate Washut", named for the bands director, Bob Washut. Washut came here in 1980 and by 1982 Jazz Band One had been named the top college jazz band in the nation. He is recognized as a top educator, clinician, composer, arranger...everything you would want in a person in your music program. But after 22 years he's decided to step down as director of Jazz Band One. He'll continue at the university, working with students, writing and arranging music, and directing Jazz Band Two, but now the torch has been passed to a new director (the current director of Jazz Band Two). Things won't be the same without him there on stage leading the band. I'm not saying that the band won't be as good, but Washut always gave this super-cool vibe that eclipsed words, and it always made concerts enjoyable for me, and I think it has a lot to do with what makes him such a good educator.

As for the concert itself, it was probably the 2nd best jazz concert I've seen them do (the concert with Matt Wilson a couple years ago might have been a bit more enjoyable overall). They played quite a few songs written or arranged by former members of Jazz Band One, with one being guest conducted by the composer and another featuring the composer/arranger as a guest trombonist. There were several speeches made about Washut, one from the dean of the college and one by the president of the university. One of the departing seniors spoke for the band, and Washut gave some choked-up words of thanks to the audience. He said he wanted to go out with that years' seniors, and I can't blame him. I've listened to all of them for the past 4 or 5 years and I think I'll miss them, too. Jason Danielson on piano, Greg Aker and Rick Stone on sax...ah, you haven't seen anything until you've seen Rick Stone play the sax. To hear is one thing, but to see is a concert all by itself. But it wouldn't look the same without Washut standing quietly on the side of the stage, not really directing at all. I'm glad I'll remember Jazz Band One the way I've come to enjoy it so much in my time here.

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