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Hillsdale College Faculty Jazz band the Hillcats per­formed the music of singer-song­writer James Taylor Feb. 22. | Wiki­media Commons

The aroma of musty vinyl floated over the voices and instru­ments of Hillsdale College Faculty Jazz band the Hillcats this past Sat­urday, as the musi­cians and com­munity remem­bered the music of singer-song­writer James Taylor.

The classic sound of Taylor’s music was per­formed by the Hillcats with the accom­pa­niment of vocals by Hank Horton on Feb. 22.

“Jazz can handle any­thing, even James Taylor music,” music director and trumpet player Christopher McCourry told the audience.

Bursting at the seams five minutes after the performance’s start, only standing room was available, although some members pulled forward dec­o­rative chairs and loveseats from the back of the room, des­perate for the tunes of Taylor.

“This will be the last concert the Hillcats will be playing in this room,” McCourry said. “We’ll be in Phillips Audi­torium with 700 seats, so no one will have to stand. We’re ready to move on.”

Playing Taylor’s most well-known pieces, from “Fire and Rain,” to “Mexico,” to “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” the audience bopped their heads along with the familiar tunes.

“When you do this kind of music, it lends itself to sax­o­phone,” McCourry said.

“Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,” shortly fol­lowed, with the audience com­pletely silent as trombone player Rob Killips played a solo.

After playing for several minutes, the audience boomed with applause that echoed throughout McNamara.

“I really appre­ciated the chance to perform alongside such tal­ented musi­cians,” back­ground vocalist and sophomore John Szc­zotka said. “I don’t remember the last time I’ve been so musi­cally intim­i­dated by people I’m sharing a stage with.”

Horton attributed the per­for­mance of “Sweet Baby James” to his grandson, and McCourry pointed out after­wards, “Those tears, I see them.”

Rem­i­niscing, McCourry recounted a memory of his own to the audience of The Drifters’ “Up On the Roof” which he asso­ciates with his early childhood.

“I remember lis­tening to this tune since it was one of the three records I remember finding in my grandmother’s basement as a kid,” McCourry said. “I remember lis­tening to it over and over.”

Senior Shadrach Strehle intro­duced the Hillcats at the beginning of the evening, and later joined the musi­cians on stage, playing the bass for the song “Steam­roller.”

“I have a ton of respect for the musi­cians in the Hillcats, and I do every­thing I can to make it to every one of their shows,” Strehle said. “The jazz department has given me an amazing oppor­tunity to play in mul­tiple ensembles despite not being a music major or minor, and having that oppor­tunity has brought me an incredible amount of joy.”

Even the audience members appre­ciated the oppor­tunity to enjoy the music of James Taylor at Hillsdale.

“I was so impressed by the way the ensemble trans­formed the iconic sound of James Taylor, while still main­taining the essential ele­ments,” audience member Kate Ford said. “It was a dynamic and engaging expe­rience. I’m grateful that Hillsdale offers oppor­tu­nities for events like this.”