The Premier Septet performs their first official gig at Jimmy Mak’s


John Morud-Williamson, The Premier Septet’s talented guitarist. Leah Cromett photo.

By Cyrus Lyday, Editor-in-Chief

The Premier Septet, a jazz group comprised of four Cleveland High School students and two other high school students, performed their first gig at legendary Northwest Portland jazz club Jimmy Mak’s on Feb.16. Their smooth ensembles serenaded a packed house comprised of audience members ranging from high school students to jazz veterans.

The Septet is made up of three seniors and a junior from Cleveland, a bassist from Lincoln and a sophomore from Sunset. Olivia Fields and Taylor Griffin, seniors, headline the band as a duo of talented alto sax players. John Morud-Williamson, guitarist and Cleveland senior, and junior pianist Paris Butler provided complementary parts. The two non-Cleveland students, Nathaniel Frances and Andres Moreno, played bass and drums, respectively. The group met at AJAM, Alan Jones Academy of Music, and formed what is now The Premier Septet.

Their premier was in fact premier. They opened with ‘Redshift,’ a song written by Griffin. It led into ‘Catscratch Woman,’ by Frances, which featured a catchy sax line, piano and guitar solos. “Johnny [Morud] killed it on Catscratch Woman,” said Fields, whose opinion was mirrored by the crowd’s large applause.

The most captivating performances of the show in my opinion were the back-to-back pieces, ‘My Shining Hour,’ a non-original piece, and ‘Enclosing’ by Griffin. Fields performed what I believed to be the best solo of the night during ‘My Shining Hour.’ After ‘My Shining Hour’, Griffin addressed the crowd in a humorous way when he said, ‘That was nice, you all clapping for us.’ It lightened up the crowd before beginning ‘Enclosing,’ a more somber tune that Griffin wrote for his late uncle.

Overall the gig showcased the talents of every member of the band, as each of them had a couple solos throughout the night. “Solos are improvised and then the melody is the same, but the solos are all the time based off the melody,” said Morud. The order in which they solo is also improvised, “to some degree, Paris [Butler] likes to jump in sometimes,” said Morud.

The small gripes I had with the performance concerned the solos. Sometimes Butler would jump in and not jump out, leading to extended solos. Morud’s solos needed more volume; it felt as if the backups would drown out his solo at times. However, these little issues fell far from ruining the show, and most solos did a great job of exhibiting each artist’s individual talents.

Jimmy Mak’s did a wonderful job hosting the event, and there was quite a turnout. “I was really surprised that a lot of people came because not a lot of people go out to see live music anymore, especially jazz, because it’s kind of old. I was really happy that I saw a ton of kids from school,” said Fields.

The septet has much more original pieces to perform. “I have probably 15 songs, and we played two of mine. Nate has a bunch. We could do a lot more shows with just originals if we want to,” said Griffin.

There is no way to find their work unless you attend a show, but Moreno hinted at future plans, saying, “We have not yet recorded. Actually, [there] might be something in the future. It might come up, but not for now.”

There are also no shows planned in the close future, however the band members have a desire for more. “[There are] probably not any foreseeable [shows] that we can say right now,” said Griffin, and “Not specifically” added Morud, as if there were plans for future shows. Moreno and Fields concluded with a resounding, “HIRE US.” Their first gig was a huge success, and venues should be pouncing to hire The Premier Septet.