By RUI ZHONG
WASHINGTON — As snow melted and weather in the metropolitan Washington area reached a balmy 60 degrees, the Johns Hopkins Peabody Jazz Quintet set up stage in Kenney Auditorium for a mini-concert last month on March 9. As students, staff, and faculty from Johns Hopkins D.C-based campuses listened on, the Quintet, comprised of Peabody students, performed a set of five jazz songs with the theme “Classics from the Great American Songbook.” In a well-coordinated performance, they looked back on the past with a bittersweet fondness and toward the future with longing.
Peabody School alumna Irene Jacente stepped in as the vocalist for the evening for the Quintet’s Laura Spence, and began with an upbeat rendition of “If I Were a Bell” by Frank Loesser. Trumpeter Leo Maxey, bassist Jon Guo, keyboardist Nathan Hook, and drummer Byung Kang provided soulful and often playful instrumental accompaniment to vocals; the instrumentalists also added their own solos throughout the five-song set. The mini-concert’s pieces bid farewells to past regrets in songs such as “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” by Jule Styne. Another selection celebrated the physical and emotional changing of the seasons in “It Might as Well be Spring,” an adaptation from a song from the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical The State Fair.
The concert concluded with the classic piece “The Man I Love,” written by George Gershwin, as a celebration of Billie Holiday’s upcoming 100th birthday. Jacente dedicated the piece to the famous American jazz singer known fondly to fans and musicians as “Lady Day.” “The Man I Love” provided an interesting perspective with which to close out the concert, looking wistfully to the future with a sense of optimism and romanticism that can be all too difficult to find in Washington’s day-to-day life.