There was not a hip left unshaken after the Birdland Big Band’s performance last night at the Eisenhower Auditorium.
Led by world-renowned drummer Tommy Igoe , The Birdland Big Band has traveled nationally to play for audiences all over the country. The band has ventured out on a one-month tour, playing at 22 venues.
The band’s groovy and experimental jazz sound had people tapping their feet and swaying their shoulders within the walls of the massive auditorium. This is the largest venue the band has played in Amy Vashaw, Director of Audience and Programming Development at the Center for Performing Arts, said.
“The first question I asked myself was will the sound, mood and vibe outsize the auditorium,” Vashaw said. “They sound amazing in there.”
Vashaw first heard the band at the Birdland Jazz Club , the band’s home, in New York City. She knew immediately that Penn State had to see the show, she said.
“Two songs in, I said we have to have them,” Vashaw said. “The main thing was the report with the audience, making sure they had a good time.”
Igoe’s incredibly technical beats and fills behind the drum set took charge of the performance, accompanying the smooth upright bass, booming brass section and melodies from pianist Whitney Ashe .
The quick jazz tunes were often paired with Latin percussion such as congas and bongos. Each musician had their chance to move the crowd with an interesting solo. The band never plays the same thing twice, front man Tommy Igoe said.
“Jazz is just one style that we play,” he said. “You’ll hear sounds from Venezuela, Spain and Cuba.”
Many young faces occupied the audience. Penn State student Ryan Wang, for example, said it was his first experience with a jazz ensemble.
“I’ve never been to anything like this,” Wang (freshman-DUS) said . “It seems like a show where you can sit and enjoy the music without having to think about it.”
At the beginning of the show, an announcement was made telling the audience to vote for which songs they want to hear on the band’s website. This is one of several actions taken by the band to innovate their show, Igoe said.
“We have to appeal to a younger fan base,” he said. “We have to make our own trail.”
Igoe has his reputation deeply embended into New York City, playing there nearly every week out of the year. He also wrote the percussion score to the Broadway show, “The Lion King.” His father exposed him to jazz in the first days of his life, Igoe said.
“I grew up around this music,” he said. “It’s in my DNA.”