Alex Chilowicz Senior Recital
William Paterson University
May 9, 2010
In November of 2009, Alex Chilowicz, along with members of the Manhattan School of Music's Jazz Philharmonic Orchestra, performed Focus, Eddie Sauter's seven part composition for string orchestra and improvised tenor saxophone. The piece was originally written for and played by Stan Getz. Soloing over the orchestra with an authority beyond his years, the twenty-two year old college senior's musicianship was essential in making the concert an unqualified success.
Six months later, Chilowicz's senior recital, a comparatively modest affair, served as both a farewell to a distinguished college career and a look into the future. The tenor saxophonist and his band matesmostly William Paterson University students and alumnibelied the cookie cutter stereotype of players produced by the jazz academy. Trumpeter Dave Levy, pianist Josh Richman (who doubled on melodica for one selection), pianist Billy Test, and vibraphonist Robert Langslet are all well on their way to developing distinctive voices. Along with bassist Ethan O'Reilly and drummer John Czolacz, they deftly handled relatively complex material like Hermeto Pascoal's "Aquela Coisa" and Lee Morgan's "The Procrastinator."
Chilowicz's astute choice of sidepersons, repertoire, as well as a willingness to share the spotlight, bodes well for a bright future as a bandleader. A genial master of ceremonies, his patter between selections kept the audience at ease. Pascoal, he remarked, resembles "an albino Santa Claus." Morgan's "The Procrastinator" "is a tune that speaks to my personality." In introducing an original, "Spiky Spit-Up," as "a song for my mom on Mother's Day," Chilowicz added that the title was his nickname in early childhood. On the serious side, he prefaced "Lush Life" by reciting a number of lines from Billy Strayhorn's world weary lyrics.
Unlike many youthful players who are anxious to make an immediate impression, Chilowicz's solos didn't utilize long volleys of notes or act out gratuitous displays of emotion. The strength of his presentations came from a steady flow of tightly-constructed ideas and a willingness to pay attention to the rhythm section. During "Aquela Coisa" his smooth tone briefly turned prickly as he worked through a series of short phrases. In the midst of "The Procrastinator" thoughts became longer and more convoluted; then without losing continuity, he reined them back in.
While the band moved around him on "Lush Life," Chilowicz evoked self-absorption worthy of Strayhorn's lyrics. Admirable on purely musical terms even as he pulled at your heartstrings, his rendition was the stuff that jazz fans' dreams are made of. The lustrous, somewhat lived-in tone occasionally became brittle. Chilowicz's improvisation was heartier and more animated than the treatment of the melody, yet as his search continued a sense of existential isolation stayed intact.
After thanking a number of WPU faculty, staff, and fellow students, Chilowicz introduced the standard "On Green Dolphin Street," the recital's final selection. A complementary remark about "the way Keith Jarrett develops the theme over time" on a recorded version of the song took on special significance when his unaccompanied introduction gradually worked its way towards the melody. Likewise, the architecture of Chilowicz's extended solo held firm while withstanding the band's lively accompaniment. After the out head, as he continued to extrapolate on the theme, the rest of the featured players, including trombonist Andrea Gonnella and guitarist Pedro Rodriguez made a surprise entrance via an emergency door adjacent to the bandstand. They found a loose collective improvisational groove, and the music ended on a note of genuine community and shared triumph.