by Rima Thompson
The Samadhi Project filled the University of La Verne’s Founders Auditorium with an array of diverse music Feb. 20.
The jazz group featured Jeff Hawley on six-string electric bass, Mike Bennett on drums and Ryan Pryor on piano and keyboards.
The event began with senior Angela Perry introducing the entertainment and getting the audience ready for “not your average concert.”
Guitarist Kendall Smith and singer Mike Stallings got the audience going with a rousing, slightly different rendition of neo-soul singer India Arie’s hit song “Video.”
The next tune they covered was “Water Runs Dry” by R&B group Boyz II Men.
Kendall projected a soulful voice reminiscent of R&B singer Jon B., while Stallings sounded like a fresher version of Wanya Morris from Boyz II Men.
Both men gave an honest, raw performance with great harmonization. Their vocal riffs and ad-libbing were great additions to the songs, and their interaction was endearing.
Kendell and Stallings ended their set with a song they wrote called, “Surely Company.” Stallings said the song was about music being a healing mechanism when things are going wrong.
Perry then introduced “The Samadhi Project,” the band everyone had been waiting to see.
“It’s an Indian name that speaks about intellectualism,” Perry said of the group’s name.
As Bennett, Hawley and Pryor took the stage, an already rambunctious crowd cheered loudly when they began their first set called “OT3” by Pryor.
It was an upbeat instrumental piece that had a jazzy-rock vibe to it- a vibe that apparently got an audience member excited enough to get up and dance, eventually taking his shirt off.
The crowd cheered him on, as he seemed oblivious to everything around him except the music being played.
The interaction between percussionist Kris “Omar” Kataoka and Bennett seemed as though they were competing, but in a friendly way. Kataoka’s intricate hand movements while playing were also impressive.
Featured guests included tenor, alto and soprano saxophonist Vince Hizon, tenor saxophonist Bryan Parks and trumpet players Brian Mantz and Mark Capalbo.
Hizon showed his true professionalism during one of the sets when a microphone fell off his saxophone. He calmly bent down to the microphone and kept playing without hesitation.
Hizon’s playing had an authentic bluesy rhythm, reminiscent of legendary saxophonist George Coleman.
After a few sets, Perry came back to introduce Parks, Mantz and Capalbo. She riled up the audience, encouraging people to get out of their seats and dance.
Another set performed was “Untold” by Pryor. It had an electronic-techno jazzy blend vibe.
The last set played was a Miles Davis composition that had a blend of funk and blues.
At times the music seemed disjointed with all the instruments, but it did not prevent the audience from enjoying the show.
Other songs played were “Footprints” by Wayne Shorter, “One in Seven” by Soulive, “Hottentot” by John Scofield and “Wolfbane” by Lenny White.
As a group, the Samadhi Project have been playing on and off for four or five months at bars, restaurants and jazz festivals. This was their second time playing at ULV, and they hope to return.
“Most of the time when we are doing club gigs and things, everyone is drunk and already having a good time, so it’s not a real judge of whether people like it or not sometimes,” Hawley said. “It’s cool to have a crowd that’s here to see a show, and really get into it. It’s great to see their reaction, and we’re kind of building off the audience.”
The night was a recital for Bennett, a ULV student. He feels that the University needs to put on more shows like this to expose everyone in the La Verne community to a diversity of music.
“Students need to step up and really just take a role in their campus,” he said. “Just like with any other program, events need to be happening. This is a small place, and all you have to do is ask.”
Bennett will play with Reed Gratz at 8 p.m., April 8 in Founders Auditorium.
The Samadhi Project will play at concerts that will also be held March 1 at the Western States Jazz Festival in Upland and The Continental in Fullerton. All concerts are free.