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UNC musicians play together at Durham's Sharp Nine Gallery

Some say that jazz is like a conversation. You don’t know where the conversation will end, but the back and forth creates a beautiful melody.

That’s the approach that UNC music professor Jim Ketch took when he compiled a quintet of fellow UNC musicians to play tonight at Sharp Nine Gallery in Durham.

The quintet, comprised of UNC music department professor Ketch and UNC music department lecturers Dave Finucane, Scott Sawyer and Dan Davis and featuring New York jazz musician and New School professor Ben Allison, will play entirely unscripted. The first time that they will meet Allison will be the day of the performance. The newly formed quintet will play an 8- to 10-song set for the one time only show.

“It’s going to be pretty live,” said Sawyer, the guitarist.

“That’s one of the cool things about jazz music — that it’s possible for people who haven't played together on a regular basis, or maybe people who’ve never met, to go up there and sound like they know each other.”

Allison, who plays the bass, is visiting UNC's music department, and she will be playing a show earlier in the afternoon with jazz students in Chapel Hill.

“It’s kind of our hopes that any time we bring a guest artist in that maybe we can get a date where we can play at a club and that everybody’s available on that night and everybody doesn’t have another gig,” Ketch said.

Even though Allison is new to the group, the UNC faculty members have enjoyed working with each other extensively in the past.

“It’s always great to get a chance to work with really great musicians, and everyone involved in this show are people who can really make music on a high level,” Sawyer said.

“I haven’t met Ben before, but some of the other guys are my people to make music with.”

As for the risky nature of the impending performance without a trial run, Ketch said that it was more common than one would think, especially in the world of jazz.

“We all play this music and we’ve all been playing it for many, many years, so in a way it’s sort of like a pick up basketball game,” he said.

“We go out to the court, somebody has the ball and we start playing.”

The professors hope that despite little publicity, music department students as well as general lovers of jazz will be interested in seeing the show.

“It’s not as miraculous as it sounds because each of us may have played a tune 20 or 30 times with a group somewhere else, but we’ve never played it with this group of five, so it’ll have something unique about it, something different about it,” Ketch said.

“Part of that is what makes jazz so attractive to us, and we hope that others is that there’s an unpredictability — there’s an originality, a creativity about it that is quite unique.”

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