By Corey Huggins
HAYS- On any given Thursday morning at 11:00, the Kansas Next Step Jazz Combo meets in Malloy Hall for rehearsal. The five-piece group, now in its second year, primarily plays jazz standards from the days of old, though with a newer twist; the tunes they play have been arranged specifically for a small group such as themselves.
In the past, the combo has played out of the Real Book, which presents only the melody and basic chord structure of each song for the performers to then improvise on. These new arrangements, written by jazz great Frank Mantooth, are much more detailed than those in the Real Book, designed to utilize the strengths of a small group.
This year’s combo consists of Layne Moe, trumpet, Katie Glading, trombone, Aaron Orth, guitar, Kelsey Spangler, drums, and Cameron Shoemaker, bass guitar. Shoemaker also serves as the primary organizer for the group; booking performances, scheduling rehearsals, etc. The combo is also mentored by longtime FHSU jazz professor Brad Dawson.
They are available to play at almost any location, though with one stipulation; “All of our gigs have to be public. KNS sponsors us so others can experience Jazz,” says Shoemaker. Indeed, providing opportunities is what the Kansas Next Step organization does. KNS works by pairing students with professionals and provides financial assistance to help them succeed.
The group recently performed alongside the FHSU Marching Band at the unveiling of Big Creek Crossing, formerly The Mall, and upcoming gigs are being scheduled in the downtown area through the Downtown Hays Development Corporation.
For booking information, email Cameron Shoemaker at firstname.lastname@example.org.