Unique All-female Jazz Quartet Enthralls Hudson Street Audience with Improvised Standards and Original Music

By Rhett Dugstad, keyboard Specialist, Metropolitan Center

August 14, 2014

empire state college students perform at jazz eventSylvia Cuenca, a 2014 Empire State College Bachelor of Arts graduate in jazz performance, brought her unique all-female quartet jazz band in to enthrall a crowd with a warm performance in the event room at 325 Hudson Street at the Metropolitan Center.  Joe Washington, mentor in history of jazz, introduced the band in the third-floor space known for its great art shows and concerts put on by students. Cuenca has recorded and toured with Clark Terry, who once was a member of The Tonight Show Band in the Johnny Carson era.

The performance was a full-band lineup including Sharel Cassity on saxophone, Cuenca on drums, Sheryl Bailey on guitar and Akiko Tsuruga on organ. The improvised standards skittled and rat-a-tat-tatted across the room and radiated a carefree, whimsical feeling. The band also presented an original number. Nothing in the world could go wrong as long as this band played away. The music curved and swayed its way through blues, bebop and swing. About two-thirds of the way in, it lulled listeners into a hammock-of-sound comfort and then started back up again energetically and ended with a bop bang drum solo by Cuenca. The band's cohesive collaboration seemed influenced by the early July weather. It was jazz doing what it is supposed to do.

"Describing events like this could never do them justice," Rhett Dugstad said, who added that more concerts will be announced in the future.

Washington sponsors these events along with the student clubs, such as the Black Male Initiative, advised by Mentor David Fullard, and the Music Industry Club, advised by Mentor Justin Giordano. These are clubs any student can join. For more information about these or other clubs, contact student services or the faculty advisors. Other clubs include the Entrepreneurship Club, the Writers and Speakers Club and the Sports Club.

Mentor Lear Matthews, who attended the event, observed, "Events such as the jazz performance held at the Metropolitan Center offer an excellent opportunity for students, faculty, support staff and professional staff, as well as the general public to collectively enjoy a social moment. The atmosphere was both relaxing and exciting as the diverse audience appeared enthralled and mesmerized by the talents and musical genius of ladies playing jazz. Professor Joe Washington, his students and BMI must be complimented for adding an important dimension to the Empire State College curriculum. An evening well spent."

Fullard shared his insight into the important purposes of the event, "As a means by which we can fulfill BMI's mission of encouraging and supporting students, events such as the jazz concert enable us to foster retention by strengthening dialogue and networking opportunities with them. It was a successful and enjoyable evening that allowed us to showcase new alumnae, enjoy amazing music with jazz percussionist Sylvia Cuenca and friends and experience yet another occasion for us all to relate, communicate and celebrate."

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Rhett Dugstad

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