“I think us playing early on is a really good opportunity for students to kind of see, first of all, faculty members playing the music and, second of all, just to get a little taste of what the music is about," he said. "A lot of students aren’t exposed to this kind of music."
Anderson, professor of composition and jazz studies, said jazz instrumentalists can improvise and change the music throughout the performance. The freedom and communication between musicians is what made him fall in love with the genre.
“How you play it, where you take it — if you play it loud, or very busily, or very spacey — all that is up to the interpretation of the group in the moment,” he said. “On a great night, you can take the music to the moon and play something that’s never been played before and will never be played the exact same way ever again.”
The freedom attracted Davis to jazz as well, especially because it’s more difficult for drummers to be spontaneous with music in other genres.
“You really get to be very creative and do things on the spot, and it’s different night after night,” Davis said. “In some other kinds of music, as a drummer, you have to do more role-playing, like things have to be a certain way — the same every time. But with jazz it can be different, you can really be yourself.”
Anderson said the popular music culture in the U.S. is geared toward the singers. This prevents genres that include many instrumental songs, like jazz, from existing in the mainstream music scene.
Anderson is determined to keep spreading his love for jazz, whether it’s through teaching or performing.
“We do want audiences to know about it and to love it, and I’m personally sad that more people don’t know about it,” Anderson said. “That’s why I’m so passionate about the [jazz] history classes that I teach, because I see myself as an evangelist for the cause.”
Foureman said he knows jazz is not mainstream, but he wants students to know musicians of the genre still exist.
“So often I feel like [it's] a sentinel of a way of life that’s kind of maybe been left behind or forgotten about, but it’s still here,” Foureman said. “We’re still swinging, and we’re keeping the tradition alive and trying to move it along harmonically and progressively.”
Under the name "Stephen Anderson Trio," the group will perform this month at the Lee Hansley Art Gallery in Raleigh and Carolina Meadows in Chapel Hill.