According to definition, jazz is a style of music, native to America, characterized by a strong but flexible rhythmic understructure with solo and ensemble improvisations on basic tunes and chord patterns and, more recently, a highly sophisticated harmonic idiom. This Saturday at 7:30 p.m., the Zodiac Ensemble will perform in the Turner Jazz Center and attempt to defy that definition.
Even though the Zodiac Ensemble members started out in different cities, they all ended up in New York City. In 2008, the members formed their band.
Keyboard player Glenn Zaleski was the latest addition to the group. Hailing from Massachusetts, Zaleski was a finalist in a 2011 international piano competition. He will be here with Colin Stranahan, the group’s drummer, who has performed for Herbie Hancock, John Mitchell and others. Karl McComas-Reichl plays bass and is a co-founder of the record and poetry company Strange Cage.
Senior Devin van Holsteijn, the events coordinator for the Turner Jazz Center, described the group as “something completely different.”
The Zodiac Ensemble performs with all the members’ personalities. The group’s goal is to enlighten people to this connection between personality and performance. The group’s hope is to show others how interconnected we are and learn about themselves along the way.
John Kizilarmut, professor of jazz percussion, explained that the ensemble represents a changing perception in how we judge music.
“At one time, we could appropriately use clear boundary lines to describe the musical world,” he said. “This person is a performer. This person composes music in this style. Thankfully, the evolution of music has begun to blur these boundaries.”
The Zodiac Ensemble uses a variety of musical styles to express themselves. The group is inspired by everything from classical repertoire to jazz to folk music.
“They have a lot of musical things to say, especially for combo players,” van Holsteijn said.
The Zodiac Ensemble has performed on every inhabited continent.
“Zodiac is a great example of the modern ensemble,” Kizilarmut said. “The members are composer and performer both in equal parts, and their music is an expression of the entire art – spirituality, invention, form and emotion.”
Currently, there are five free songs to listen to on the SoundCloud web site. You can find this page from the ensemble’s website at http://zodiacensemble.com/fr_home.cfm or directly at the link http://soundcloud.com/zodiacensemble.
The Turner Jazz Center will open at 7 p.m. this Saturday. Only 100 seats will be available. To reserve tickets, you can call the Drake Box Office at 515-271-3841. Reserved tickets will cost $8. On the day of the concert, tickets will be $10. However, if seats are still available 15 minutes before the concert, students may purchase tickets for $2. There will be no program for the concert on Saturday. “They’ll play what they want to play,” van Holsteijn said.
With the American Top 40 list as one of the group’s inspirations, van Holsteijn also added that songs by artists such as Lady Gaga could be performed.