Jazz Ensemble to showcase Max Caplan ’16 in Gershwin classic

Publication Date

The Union College Jazz Ensemble’s winter concert will feature Max Caplan ’16 in a piano solo of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28, in the Emerson Auditorium in the Taylor Music Center.

The performance, which will also feature jazz and pop classics spanning different time periods, is free and open to the public.

Directed by Tim Olsen, associate professor of music, the Jazz Ensemble has in recent years showcased guest artists including Latin jazz band Sensemaya and gypsy jazz outfit Hot Club of Saratoga.

“I’ve wanted to perform ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ for some time,” said Olsen, who has led the Jazz Ensemble since arriving at Union in 1994. “Max’s background in both classical and jazz music makes him ideally situated to navigate this piece, which on the one hand makes incredible technical demands and on the other requires the soloist to emote in beautiful ballad writing.”

To perform the piece, the Jazz Ensemble has been augmented by members of the College and Community Orchestra, including French horns, clarinet and a few string players.

Caplan, of nearby Niskayuna, is a double major in music and classics. A composer and pianist, he has worked closely with Hilary Tann, the John Howard Payne Professor of Music, and will be presenting a recital of original works in the spring term. He regularly plays the chimes atop Memorial Chapel. He has also conducted the Union College and Community Orchestra in his own work. He appeared with the Orchestra as soloist in the Grieg Piano Concerto in A minor as part of the 2015 Steinmetz Symposium.

In addition to “Rhapsody in Blue,” the program includes other classics.

“Members of the percussion section have been dying to play Benny Goodman’s big band hit ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ and so we’re going to feature all four drummers as well as trumpeter Nick Meixsell ‘19 and Kyle Miller ‘18 on soprano sax,” Olsen said. “I’ve also been unable to avoid Bruno Mars and his “Uptown Funk,” so I thought we’d better play it. It also will be sung by Kyle Miller.”