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On Wednesday, Sept. 12, the Weber State University department of performing arts hosted its last Jazz at the Station program for the summer months.
The final summer performance was originally scheduled to be held outside in the fountain plaza of the Union Station on Ogden’s Historic 25th Street. Because of a banquet being held by St. Benedict’s, the performance was brought inside to the Browning Theater. Due to the change, the event began about 20 minutes late, but still packed the house with WSU students, faculty and Ogden City community members.
The event, titled “Benjamin Jennings and Friends,” featured performers Benjamin Jennings on vocals, bass and percussion; Don Keipp, who played vibes, drums and conga; Keven Johansen on the guitar; Jim Schaub on bass and vocals; Richard Bush on the saxophone; Holly Bowden on the flute; Justin Torres on the oboe and English horn, and vocalist Liz Woolley.
Throughout the night, performers switched instruments between and during songs. Woolley was the main vocalist for the evening and performed two original pieces, “Apple of my Eye” and “Even After All This Time.” Her final numbers included “Over the Rainbow” and “That’s All,” which she performed with Benjamin Jennings, accompanied by the entire group.
This performance was a WSU reunion for several performers. Keipp retired last spring from WSU, where he directed the percussion and jazz ensembles. Bush is a former adjunct professor for WSU who has retired. Bowden and Torres are both graduates of the music program at WSU. Bowden is also a manager at the Stewart Library, working in cataloging and technical services.
“I graduated with my bachelor’s in music, and basically right away, I started playing with community orchestras,” Bowden said. “The one I play with all the time is the American Philharmonic; they do the big concert on campus every year, with all of the fireworks. This is my first experience playing with jazz — a little terrifying, but very fun.”
This was also Torres’ first experience performing jazz. Music was his second degree from WSU, his first being computer science.
“I play about 200 gigs a year,” Torres said. “This is the first jazz thing that I’ve ever done. I did it because it was Ben’s birthday. I graduated from Weber State with my music degree, and I love Weber State. I’m from Utah, and I’m glad to do something for the community. This is so great.”
Traditionally, Benjamin Jennings has organized this September performance each year as more of a “jam session.” The performance was more impromptu than planned, and the musicians played songs that are shared favorites, according to Benjamin Jennings. Some songs performed included “Summertime” by George Gershwin, “Freddie Freeloader” by Miles Davis and “Camptown Races” by Stephen Foster.
“There won’t be a rehearsal for the show; we just invite jazz musicians,” said Caril Jennings, marketing director for the performing arts department. “We’ll have a playlist so the musicians will know what they’re up for. It’s always kind of exciting. With jazz, there is always an element of improvisation. It makes jazz a little more immediate and little more interesting. You know that the orchestra has been rehearsing and you know they’re going to do a good job . . . You go see jazz musicians because you’re thinking, ‘What’s going to happen next?’”
Benjamin Jennings, who was celebrating his birthday, assists his mother, Caril, with many of the Jazz at the Station programs and other jazz programs throughout Ogden and Utah. Caril organizes and hosts the Jazz at the Station events.
The next Jazz at the Station performances will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 10, inside the Union Station. The show will begin at 7 p.m. and is free to the public.