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Jack Sheehan Band takes the virtual stage

Not even a global pandemic can silence the music created by this fiery jazz group

Jack Sheehan, a saxophonist, educator and composer, performed for The Front Porch's Save the Music series on Wednesday.
Jack Sheehan, a saxophonist, educator and composer, performed for The Front Porch's Save the Music series on Wednesday.

In the midst of COVID-19 wreaking havoc on artistic creation, many music-lovers wondered how long it would be before they could marvel at live concerts or sweat profusely in general admission standing rooms. The wait is now — somewhat — over. Pictures of fans seated six feet apart have been circulating online and foreshadowing the future of the socially-distanced consumption of art. This slightly melancholic display of live music seems to be the new normal for the time being. However, many venues, including Charlottesville’s very own The Front Porch, are still opting to host live, online music events in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. These long-awaited concerts are filling the homes of whoever decides to tune in with waves of smooth jazz, therapeutically loud classic rock and so much more.

This Wednesday, online viewers virtually assembled for another installment of Save the Music, a concert series which takes place in real time at The Front Porch. These events are accessible through The Front Porch’s Facebook and YouTube pages, thanks to a myriad of local sponsors, such as the Charlottesville Jazz Society. Viewers are able to ask the band questions in the comments, donate to local artists and once again get lost in the mesmerizing art of performance. Arguably, these online venues offer more interaction with artists than a traditional show, as well as a unique listening experience which allows for increased — albeit virtual — communication with fellow listeners.

This most recent concert was led by the dynamic artist Jack Sheehan, a saxophonist, educator and composer. Since the young age of 11, Sheehan has been mastering the saxophone and performing with household names in the jazz genre, such as Nestor Torres and Terence Blanchard. By the time he was 13, he was performing at gigs as much as three or four times per week. Sheehan’s instrumental mastery and the ease in which he performs onstage were apparent during the event, despite the technological barrier through which the band was forced to perform. Viewers were still able to witness the confident air of Sheehan as he interacted with both his instrument and the masked performers around him, gliding side to side on the ornate rug beneath them.

After acknowledging the strangeness of the past couple months and the ongoing fight for Black justice in America, Sheehan played a somber rendition of “Hymn to Freedom.” This piece seemed to be a respectful nod to the feelings of pain and loss felt by many since March and throughout history. Following this moving number, the tone of the music shifted drastically. Covers of upbeat jazz classics and delightful sounds from the strong horn section became a running theme of the night, undoubtedly impressing the nearly 400 online viewers. Interestingly enough, the majority of songs performed by the band were written by renowned piano players, which converted delightfully to the expressive beauty of the saxophone. Comments of praise for Sheehan’s unique talent and the blissful sounds of live music consistently flooded the pages of the online broadcast.

The night ended with the Jack Sheehan Band acknowledging the generosity of The Front Porch and executing a power performance of “Gingerbread Boy” by saxophonist Jimmy Heath. The band members simultaneously commanded attention from the viewers as they powered through each chord, beat and high note with surprisingly swift movement.

If you missed this lively performance or want to catch future shows in the Save the Music series, tune in to WTJU Charlottesville on 91.1 FM at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays or 8 p.m. on Fridays or stream online at wtju.net.

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