A group of talented students from SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music recently rocked Rochester with their eclectic sounds, as they took to the stage in the Grand Finale of the Rochester Jazz Star competition.
Meal and Flextet, a jazz sextet, didn’t take it all—but its members still got exposure and had fun, said the band’s trumpet player and founder, Brian Lotze, who is a senior music education major minoring in jazz studies at Crane. The other members of the band are Matt Christy on vibes, Dylan Perrillo on bass guitar, Drew Coles on tenor saxophone, Kevin Urvalek on percussion, Brian Lotze and Alexander Slomka on trombone.
“All of the bands that played had something different to bring to the table. Every group had such a different sound, that the comparisons drawn in order to rank the groups must have been extremely difficult for the judges to discern,” said Lotze, who is from Fairport, N.Y. “Everyone was very encouraging of each other, and we were very impressed with what the other groups brought to the contest.”
Held in conjunction with the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, the Rochester Jazz Star competition consisted of an online voting round where people cast more than 100,000 votes for their favorite groups among dozens of entrants who posted videos, before reaching a final round played in front of a live audience.
The five finalists competed for a grand prize of $2,000, recording time in a professional studio, a designed CD cover, a demo download to iTunes and Amazon for one year and the chance to perform live on the Gibbs St. Stage at this year’s Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. The event benefited Biz Kid$ Real, a program that teaches business development to city youth.
“Usually when there is music at an event, the musicians get treated like second-class citizens, but at this, we felt very honored to be a part of the whole competition,” Lotze said. “It was a very interesting experience.”
Meal and Flextet chose to play “Big Cees,” a unique piece Lotze wrote for trumpet, tenor saxophone, trombone, bass guitar, drums and vibes, because of the backdrop it provides for smooth improvisation.
“Our sound is difficult to describe. We play jazz music, but it's very groove-oriented and is centered around improvisation. Many of the pieces that I write involve extensive layering and complex rhythmic figures,” Lotze said.
Playing gigs while juggling schoolwork is a way of life for the Crane School of Music student. In addition to playing with Meal and Flextet, he is a member of the funk group The Third Rail, which has been together for three years, and is the student director of the Crane Latin Ensemble, which recently traveled to study and perform in Mexico—not to mention his work with the Crane Jazz Ensemble, the Crane Symphony Orchestra, the Crane Wind Ensemble, the Crane Concert Band and several Brass Quintets.
“Playing music is my passion and as long as I can do that for a living, you won't find a happier person,” Lotze said.
To see a video of Meal and Flextet’s interview on a Rochester television station prior to their performance, visit http://www.13wham.com/mediacenter/local.aspx?videoId=213376&navCatId=212.
Founded in 1886, SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music has a long legacy of excellence in music education and performance. Life at Crane includes an incredible array of more than 300 recitals, lectures, and concerts presented by faculty, students, and guests each year. The Crane School of Music is the State University of New York’s only All-Steinway institution.