Jazz is alive at recent Costanzo concert event

Michelle Collins

Local residents and members of the Quinnipiac community witnessed a jazz performance last week that proved what music is meant to sound like. The jazz ensemble was led by Marlene VerPlanck, a singer who has worked with Frank Sinatra and KISS to name a few, and Warren Chiasson, a highly regarded jazz musician and vibraphonist.
As part of the 2004-2005 Sonny Costanzo concert series, this free concert in Buckman Theatre attracted mainly community residents, along with several Quinnipiac students and faculty members.
Chiasson, the life of the entire performance, energetically banged on the metal bars of his vibraphone, accompanied by the piano, bass and drums. Chiasson’s performance on the vibraphone seemed to define the melody of each piece and brought energy to every song. Every time he hit the vibraphone Chiasson would either jump back, raise his arms to the side, or make a face as if he was hitting himself instead of the instrument.
One striking detail on stage was that the drummer of the ensemble had what looked like the tip of a paint brush on the end of her drum sticks, which produced a calm, relaxing tone and sounded almost like rain. The drummer had several solos, each very different in beat and accompanied by enthusiastic applause from the audience.
All four performers played their instruments naturally and each instrument flowed smoothly with the rest. Between each song Chiasson talked eagerly to the audience about his favorite musicians and how he got into the music business. One specific musician he praised was Marlene VerPlanck, who came out to replace Chiasson after several songs.
VerPlanck had the “time of her life” on stage and it showed. Her face was glowing with every word she sang, and she did not stop smiling. VerPlanck’s main theme in the songs she performed was romance, along with one song dedicated to the “jazz buffs” in the audience. She also socialized with the audience, but not too much until later on in the show. Her soothing voice and strong vocals meshed extremely well with the three musicians behind her. She successfully mixed her slow songs and her louder, faster songs, which seemed to help several members of the audience stay awake.
VerPlanck sang about 12 songs with the ensemble and then performed several songs with Chiasson. The combination of VerPlanck’s powerful vocals and Chiasson’s aggressive performance on the vibraphone seemed to wake up the audience and made for a solid, energetic finale to an amazing jazz concert.
The Sonny Costanzo Concert Series, named for QU fine arts professor Sam Costanzo’s late brother, was started as a high school jazz competition festival in 1968. Sonny Costanzo was named as the university’s first artist-in-residence. The concert series continues to remain a Quinnipiac staple after his death.
The next featured performance in the series, “‘Swingin’ the Benny Goodman Songbook,” will be held on April 13.