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UWRF Radd Jazz Series hosts Universal Language X concert

May 2, 2014

The UW-River Falls RADD Jazz Series presented the Universal Language X concert Saturday, April 26, which featured the UWRF Jazz Ensemble directed by Craig Hara.

The Universal Language X concert has been around for 10 years. The annual program celebrates the diversity as well as the shared influences of jazz music, indigenous folk music and improvised music from a wide range of cultures around the world. Hara has been the director of all of the RADD Jazz series concerts this year. Music Professor David Milne, who has been on sabbatical leave this year, usually directs the RADD Jazz series. Hara has not directed since 2007 when a similar situation arose.

“The Universal Language concert is the idea that we focus on music from all over the world; the idea is that music is the universal language,” Hara said. “That’s part of it but in our case the context is more specific having to do with jazz, which is improvisational art.”

Hara said that jazz music comes in many different forms and from various countries. Every spring they choose different ethnically influenced music to focus on for the Universal Language X concert. The group will occasionally perform pieces from previous concerts because the songs were such a hit with members of the ensemble and audience.

“The intent of the Universal Language series is to bring that worldwide aspect to light in terms of that kind of music,” Hara said.

Three years ago, Hara performed in the Universal Language Migrations concert. Fred Sturm, a music professor at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., arranged the concert Hara performed in. Hara, who was featured in this concert, took ethnic sounds used in Brazilian and Native American pieces and used the Electrical Valve Instrument (EVI) to synthesize and enhance the musical melodies.

Senior performer Nick Newman has been working with Hara for the past four years. He has also been a member in the UWRF Jazz Ensemble throughout his undergraduate career. Newman has played the trumpet for 12 years.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Newman said. “This last concert went over really well; it was awesome to feature our band director, Professor Milne, as well with the band, it very rarely happens.”

Newman said that he felt Hara did a great job in preparing the Jazz Ensemble for their annual concert. In one of his favorite parts of the show, Hara and Milne traded solos in their last song performance, “Bilbao”, giving “one heck of a show.”

The Universal Language X concerts all have a different feel to them, mostly based on the music chosen. This year it was not as eccentric, but definitely different than the standard big band swing style.

“Overall it was a great performance, and a pleasure to perform with our professors,” Newman said. “It’s been a ride playing in the jazz band since every year we try to emphasize a different style or feature a new guest artist.”