The Colgate Scene
One cool cat
From teaching to performing, saxophonist Glenn Cashman loves his gig
|By Caroline Jenkins|
[Photos by Timothy D. Sofranko]
The 16 members of the Colgate Concert Jazz Ensemble draw a collective breath and launch, for the first time, into the syncopated strains of Fred Stride's "Something for Ernie (Nothing for Bert)." The sounds of the swing number fill room 212 of the Eric J. Ryan Studio and spill out into the hallway for a minute or two before the band is stopped by its green Hawaiian shirt-clad leader.
"Really articulate that first note," instructs Glenn Cashman, associate professor of music. "Ta-be-do-dah-do-dah, dah-do-dah-do-dah," he scats, peering down at the score through his glasses and lifting his hands to begin conducting.
The band strikes up again, and repeats the phrase with the appropriate emphasis. "Good job sight reading, everyone -- good job," commends Cashman with a warm smile after rehearsing the bars a few more times.
It was a much different setting than the one Cashman was in this past summer, and several summers before it, for that matter. Since accepting a position at Colgate in 2001, Cashman has spent the majority of the warmer months -- at his "other home" in Lake Elsinore, Calif. There, this jazz virtuoso travels through Southern California performing gigs with the acclaimed Luther Hughes & The Cannonball-Coltrane Project and other groups, and, as of last year, serves as founding director of the prestigious Muckenthaler Jazz Institute in Fullerton. But come late August, Cashman enthusiastically returns to Colgate, his students, and his course load. Of course, he could stay in California the entire year. He could make a living as a professional artist, no question. But he doesn't, he says, because he loves introducing his undergraduates to his music, his jazz.
"I would have to play a four-bar `question' and then make up a four-bar `answer' all by myself," by way of explaining how he became enamored with the concept of improvisation. "I couldn't get enough of it."
In his teenage years, Cashman discovered the clarinet and his favorite instrument, the saxophone, thanks to his high school's stellar music program. He also discovered his joy for playing in small jazz improv ensembles -- which prompted him to begin working both as an adjunct jazz professor and professional saxophonist after finishing his undergraduate and graduate studies in music. He has played on four albums as primary solo artist, band leader, or member, and is credited as a contributor on the CDs of countless other musicians.
Inspiration comes "when the chemistry among players in a jazz ensemble is right -- it's like having a free-flowing conversation that shifts, changes, touches on other topics," he explained. "I know this sounds clichéd, but you're transported out of place, out of time. It's an other-worldly situation -- it's wonderful."
Clearly, Cashman often achieves that level of play. His albums, solo projects, and collaborations -- most notably with members of the Cannonball-Coltrane Project, but also with singers Stevie Wonder and Tony Bennett, among others -- have received positive critical reviews from publications nationwide, including the Los Angeles Jazz Scene, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), The Orange County Register (California), The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Cadence and Downbeat magazines. And audiences are responding as well. The Cannonball-Coltrane Project, for one, has developed a loyal core of fans on the West Coast who follow the band to various performances. "They've even traveled to Hawaii to see us," he said, a note of pride in his voice. "It's really flattering."
"[Cashman] is passionate about jazz, and if he sees that one of his students shares that same passion, he gets excited," said Andy Bessette '09, who plays lead alto saxophone in the Concert Jazz Ensemble and called Cashman a "jazz great." "He is willing to teach us everything that he knows, but also to learn everything that our playing can teach him. He is just as much a student of jazz as we are, and there's something very exciting about exploring jazz together with him."
The ability to interact with Bessette and other undergraduates as well as perform professionally, said Cashman, was what attracted him to Colgate in the first place. He recalled coming for his interview and reading a passage in the faculty handbook that lists musical performances, exhibitions, readings, etc. -- in addition to teaching -- as "expected" activities of arts professors, because they "enrich the intellectual life of the university."
"I was so impressed with that -- Colgate really understands the role of the academic artist in a creative environment," he said, adding that he has worked at larger institutions that didn't advocate the same philosophy. "With that kind of support, all kinds of collaborations are possible. And to me, that's what it's all about. The people. And the music."
To see and hear Cashman in action, go to www.colgate.edu/video
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