Trumpeter Louis triumphantly returns to Oberlin
Composer and trumpeter Kevin Louis, OC ’99, opened his concert at the Cat in the Cream before a contemplative audience Tuesday night. Louis graduated with a Bachelor of Music in jazz performance and later received a Masters of Arts from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College in 2001. His visit was sponsored by the Black Musicians’ Guild and the Oberlin Conservatory.
The first piece, “Fire in Feona,” composed by Louis, was full of thick chords and moving progressions. The drums, played by junior Kassa Overall, accented this piece with explosive movement.
Senior Courtney Bryant’s piano solo moved up the scale in rich chords and often fell convincingly into the melodic flow. “Fire in Feona” was not without complicated melodies and rhythms, which often characterize jazz for many listeners. Louis ended the piece with a temperamental melody on his trumpet, sometimes playing with a smooth mezzo forte and moving precision and at other times with a pulsing groove. Louis seemed to easily combine both the technique while capturing the emotionally enrapturing, narrative quality of this piece.
Louis has studied the genre of jazz and trumpet performance as well as classical trumpet technique for over ten years. He has worked with the likes of Bobby Watson, Victor Lewis, Fred Sanders, Jon Benitez and Mos Def. He is a trumpeter with The Duke Ellington Orchestra and a Jazz Ambassador for the John F. Kennedy Center. The night of the week did not affect attendence. In fact, latecomers were hard pressed to find seats and often found themselves improvising along the wall and on the floor.
“Song for My Father,” arranged by Louis and composed by Horace Silver, began with an exciting trombone, played by senior Andrae Murchison, and trumpet duet. Louis and Murchison held the expression of concentration. As the audience watched them move into “Song for My Father,” everyone else on the stage seemed to recede behind the harmonies that drove the melody forward. The audience was left to interpret the meaning of this piece as Louis exhibited his dexterity on the trumpet. Louis introduced the pieces and did not neglect to acknowledge the Conservatory students that shared the stage with him.
His easy stage presence and soft-spoken air only made the coffeehouse atmosphere of the Cat in the Cream more tangible. However, the mood in the Cat seemed to shift when Louis looked to Overall to open “Mood Indigo,” composed by Duke Ellington and arranged by Louis, with a booming drum cadence. All of the musicians seemed propelled to blow excitement through their horns and press energy onto the piano keys.
The audience started moving their heads and feet and could be seen twisting into the floor in response to the frantic tempo. Louis’s role as a teacher was apparent as he encouraged Murchison and Bryant during their solos in “Mood Indigo,” nodding his head to the slow grove that marked what seemed to be a bridge in the piece.
Louis’s “A Gift from God” was extremely moving. “I appreciate God for [my gift],” Louis said before beginning this piece. It was smooth and slow and gave the inexperienced jazz listeners a chance to relax and grasp the melody. Louis closed his eyes and let his trumpet speak for him. The cymbals seemed to resonate behind Louis’s trumpet call, which was clear and dark in tone.
The concert closed with “Stablemates,” composed by Benny Golson. For this piece, four trumpeters from the Conservatory mounted the stage and each played the melody while inserting his own personalities and styles. The audience encouraged them with applause; some swayed excitedly to the swinging beat and the herald of the trumpet sound. Louis made his mark with Oberlin audiences this week with not only his trumpeting, but a shared sense of musicianship with the students who joined him on the stage.