By Emily Rostek
In a comfortable, dimly lit café, UPS students and Tacoma locals alike gathered to see the Petrichord Quartet play on Friday, March 31. Decorated with art and couches, B Sharp Coffee House served as the perfect outlet for a Friday night in Tacoma.
“It was cool to see a variety of people there and clearly enjoying the music. UPS students, School of Music staff, community members of various ages,” senior Hannah Floren said.
The vibe was relaxed and people came and went as they pleased. The gig lasted for about an hour and a half as people squished into comfortable couches and sipped on the local pale ale. B Sharp is a coffee shop and a bar; its aesthetic is both cozy and unconventional as colorful murals cover the walls outside. By 8:30 pm, the café was packed.
“We’ve been working together for a little over a year. We kind of got placed together by the school but wanted to do more community-oriented stuff,” said senior Max Hirtz-Wolf. Hirtz-Wolf plays bass in the quartet and is accompanied by sophomore Ian Crocker on guitar, freshman Nic Casey on violin, and freshman Alex Dyson on drums. The group played a number of songs featuring famous jazz musicians like Chick Corea and Wayne Shorter.
“Our biggest strong suit is variety. We got Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Clifford Brown … some modern stuff like this guy Kamasi Washington. I have a composition in there. We like to change things up. We take some classic things and make them sound different — we have a jazz tune that we’re doing as a hip hop tune,” Hirtz-Wolf said.
The energy in the room was palpable as the quartet played. It was clear the audience was just as excited about the music as the musicians onstage. Advertised on Facebook, the group described their sound as “a unique perspective to jazz” — and that is exactly what they brought to B Sharp. The enthusiasm of the four students bounced off one another as they each soloed and jammed.
“I really enjoyed the warm atmosphere and thought the music really fit with the venue. I liked the different sounds the quartet created — especially the violin!” said senior Alana Yang.
The Petrichord Quartet’s quirk is the inclusion of a violin. Traditionally, violin is a more classical instrument. Hirtz-Wolf mused, “We have Nic on violin which is kind of our wildcard. He studies here and he’s really a classical guy but he’s interested in jazz and we do all these crazy things like we put him through guitar pedals and stuff. It’s hard to play jazz on violin — it isn’t very sympathetic [to jazz] so we have to use technology in our favor to make a new sound.”
Although Hirtz-Wolf is the only senior, he suggested that he looks up to his bandmates just as much as they look up to him. “I’m way older than all of them. I’m kinda the old geezer here; they’re freshmen and sophomores. They are really pushing to change how jazz stuff happens around here and they really wanna have more community involvement and have more freedom and not have it just be jazz band. Like, we play in the rotunda. That’s lame. We’re really trying to push new events,” he said.
B Sharp Coffee House features a variety of community events weekly. Be sure to check out their schedule at http://www.bsharpcoffeehouse.com/.