The library is a place of quiet study and map perusal, where stressed Mines students tap out LAIS essays and struggle through SolidWorks homework. However, every other Friday artistic talents from campus and beyond put on free shows from noon to one. Friday the 11th, just before spring break, offered the syncopated beats of a prodigy drummer, the feverish humming of a sax, the rolling blues of the bass, and the singing strings of a cherry red guitar all rolled into the Armando Lopez Quartet.
The group, a collection of friends and musicians, came together for that afternoon, with very limited rehearsal beforehand, not that any in the audience would have noticed. The four friends, Keith Hicks, Bob Songster, Armando Lopez (a ChemE major at Mines), and Joshua Hoffman, are each active in the music scene of Denver in their own ways, but that hour in the library was transcendent.
The group played established blues and jazz tunes like Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone, but added their own twist through conversational solos between each of the four instruments. The sax and guitar were the loudest of the soloists, handing off the baton in symmetric style, but the bass and drums were not to be outdone and put down room vibrating rhythms with clever phrases and witty beats. At times during these musical dialogues, the energetically sultry music rolled over its receptive audience of students and faculty alike, setting toes to tapping and heads to bobbing. Some of the audience closed their eyes, getting lost in the art of the musicians’ harmonies.
As great of an experience this concert was for the audience, it was even more intense for the musicians. A good majority of the music played was improvised over well-established blues tunes. While Armando Lopez tickled the spine of his saxophone, it became very clear that for him, the music was a full body experience. His feet jumped and his body swayed, his shoulders rolled with intensity and his arms spasmed from the aftershock of putting so much energy into the brass instrument. His face contorted and bulged, changing like Colorado weather patterns, and the emotion of his music could be traced in the wrinkles on his face. The melody itself left echoes on the air.
A similar passion could be seen from Keith Hicks, the guitarist, involved in the Denver music scene for the past twenty-three years. The bassist, Bob Songster, heading to another gig the same day at the Arvada Tavern and Joshua Hoffman, the drummer, aged only twenty, but already making a name for himself in the world of music also, fell under the influence of the music they played as well.
Watching these musicians not only play but breathe through their instruments, left audience members smiling. Their great skills with improvisation, often leading to on the fly adjustments from the other players, were something to be admired and left the listener lost in their dexterous jazz rifts.