By Katie Orr
Performing songs from the Jazz Age like “Ladybird,” by Tadd Dameron, and “My Shining Hour,” by John Coltrane, The Matt Perko Quintet captivated a UC Santa Barbara audience during a recent performance for the weekly World Music Series, put on by the UCSB Department of Music and the MultiCultural Center.
Despite the rain that week, four UCSB Jazz Ensemble members came together under the direction of UCSB’s Senior Web Designer Matt Perko to perform multiple jazz numbers inside the music building instead of the usual outdoor venue at the campus Music Bowl.
During the school year, the weekly World Music Series performances cover a wide range of music types from Balkan tunes to gospel music. Some weeks demonstrate the natural connection between the on-campus ethnomusicology ensembles of the Music Department and the MultiCultural Center.
Other weeks have featured visitors to the campus such as Mariachi Las Olas de SB and Dixie Daddies and Mommas. “It’s a way to get more of the ensembles within the Santa Barbara community to come out to UCSB and for people to get to experience all different types of music,” says Adriane Hill, Marketing and Communications manager for the Music Department.
Quintet leader Matt Perko has a notable past in the arts. “He’s a photographer, graphic designer, also an amazing drummer,” says Hill.
The four musicians are in great hands with Perko, to whom they were introduced by UCSB Jazz Ensemble Director Jon Nathan. While Perko started working with pianist Reno Behnken during his freshman year, the other members were introduced to the group as recently as the past fall quarter.
As evidenced by the grin on bassist Harry Smidt’s face during the whole set, the energy in the room was vibrant. In an audience filled with not only students and teachers, but also friends and family members, not a single individual was focused on anything but the musicians.
In front of that captive audience, each member of the quintet had his moment to shine. While Sriram Ramamurthy added the classic jazz sound to the quintet with deep tunes from his trombone, each member introduced their own unique style to the jazz performance.
"I loved getting to see each musician get into their groove during their solos,” said second year UCSB student Taylor Miller. “There’s something about a wind instrument that is so peaceful to watch,” she added.
This was Miller’s first time attending the afternoon series. “I’ve never been a huge jazz listener, but I am so happy to have been introduced to a new culture,” she said. Other students there for the first time, along with Miller, expressed interest in wanting to come back to the series another week to be exposed to different cultures.
The highlight of the performance for many was when the quintet played “Jordu” by Clifford Brown and Max Roach. No notes were missed. Throughout the performance, the group made sure to talk the audience through their approach to every number. It was true and raw. The audience received an inside look at the inner workings of a jazz band.
Rain or shine, this afternoon series brings together a variety of people. It highlights the talents of those in the UCSB and Santa Barbara community, as well as recognizes the different cultures around the campus. On that particular week, The Matt Perko Quintet made its audience feel as if they had been transported to the heart of New Orleans. Who knows what new talented culture will be showcased at the next World Music Series event?
Katie Orr is a third-year student at UC Santa Barbara, majoring in Communication.