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Davidson College Jazz Combo to Perform on "Says You" Public Radio Program

Gypsy Jazz Quartet
Combo members (l-r) guitarist Tom Champion ’17, keyboard player Riley Mangan ’16, violinist Arielle Korman ’17 and bassist Will Newman ’15.

Davidson College's Gypsy Jazz Quartet of student musicians has provided the music for two episodes of the popular public radio show "Says You."

The combo was selected to perform for the show produced in Charlotte Nov. 16. The first program will air on Nov. 23, at 12 p.m. on WFAE (90.7), with the second following on Nov. 30 at 12 p.m.

Less than a week before the production, show producer and host Richard Sher contacted Davidson's music department in search of a small group that could perform on the show. Milner Professor of Music Bill Lawing recommended the jazz combo as a perfect fit for the program.

Lawing is the longtime conductor of Davidson's "big band" Jazz Ensemble. The smaller jazz combo was established several years ago when students in the Jazz Ensemble requested creation of a smaller faculty-led jazz group to provide another forum for honing their improvisational and ensemble skills. Saxophone and jazz studies instructor Patrick Brown built the combo, and leads it in weekly rehearsals and for at least two substantial performances each year.

The combo includes veteran pianist Riley Mangan '16 and three new members-bassist Will Newman '15, guitarist Tom Champion '17 and violinist Arielle Korman '17.

When the group began rehearsals, Brown decided to follow the lead of Django Reinhardt and perform as a Gypsy Jazz Quartet. "Gypsy Jazz" originated in the 1930s in France, and focuses on guitar, bass and violin. With Riley's delicate touch on piano and three talented and hard-working new students, Brown knew he had the right combination of musicians to steer the combo in this new direction.

The Obvious Choice

Gypsy Jazz Combo
Live on stage in Charlotte, the Gypsy Jazz Combo played for the “Says You” public radio studio audience.

When Richard Sher from "Says You" approached the music department, the Gypsy Jazz Quartet was the obvious Davidson recommendation. Within an hour of Sher's request, departmental media specialist Josh Sacco had mixed an audition track, and Sher issued the group a formal invitation to perform.

The show was recorded at Central Piedmont Community College Nov. 16. The quartet, along with Brown and Lawing, arrived at the venue at 3 p.m. and conducted a 90-minute sound check. Ryan Clark from Davidson's Technical Services department provided high-caliber equipment to optimize the recording and helped engineers achieve the best sound mix. The group then spent about 45 minutes recording the music that they would later perform for the live audience.

The two "Says You" episodes were recorded between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Before the first taping, Richard Sher let the audience know that applause was welcome, and the crowd delivered. Violinist Arielle Korman noted, "The audience was responsive and full of energy. The kind of raucous, 'hand-on-belly laughter' you hear on the radio is real!"

It was a nine-hour day for the performers and their supporters, but also an unprecedented opportunity to perform on a national stage. Korman said, "Just being present for a national live show was amazing. Being able to perform for the show was unbelievable!"