Evan Caldwell Long ’14 has been a prominent figure on the musical stage for much of this year. From the ever-present solo performances with the Jazz Ensemble to Groton’s favorite and only sax quartet, whom you may remember from chapel performances and their rendition of Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ on Revisit Day, he has far exceeded the expectations of both a music student and a music prefect. Evan and Lola (his saxophone) have been lighting it up on stage since day one and the dynamic duo look to continue when Evan goes to Stanford. His long list of achievements (pun intended) both in and outside of music include being the primary baritone saxophone player, a Music Prefect, head of the Debate Society, and now “Artist of the Issue,” an honor that genuinely surprised him.
Evan has always seen the saxophone as the musical instrument of his dreams. “I always thought the cool kids played the saxophone. I’m not sure why,” he said. He first picked up the alto saxophone in the 6th grade, never taking a lesson and barely practicing while playing in his middle school’s concert band. Evan found a much more talented pool of musicians at Groton, and fell in as the 4th alto saxophone when he arrived at the Circle. The baritone player quit two weeks into the Fall, and Kenji offered Evan the opportunity to play the baritone saxophone. Evan, ever the opportunist, took the chance as soon as it came up. At first he disliked the baritone. It was big, clunky, and took an absurd amount of air to play. However, Evan’s rhetoric has now softened. He now says that it is “like a very heavy teddy bear around your neck.” Also, the baritone saxophone is loud (just like Evan) and allows him to “overwhelm the band whenever he wants to.” Kenji himself says that Evan is “the loudest saxophone player in the history of the Groton Jazz Band.” After playing baritone throughout III Form, including on tour in Switzerland and Italy that summer, Evan asked to continue playing the baritone, hoping to play it for the rest of his Groton career.
More than just a saxophone player, Evan has also been an “exemplary leader of Soul Sauce.” He emcees for the group, a duty he will continue to take on during the Cuba trip this summer. When put on the spot at the Parents’ Weekend concert due to technical difficulties, Evan entertained the audience for eight minutes. Though it appeared to be improvised, he admits that he had been stockpiling jokes for two years for such an eventuality. “It was bound to happen eventually,” he said. “So I memorized ten or fifteen bad jokes before every concert, just for peace of mind.”
When asked about what has brought about the vast improvement of his musical abilities, he simply says, “You just have to play loud. Fear of mistakes will keep you from playing at all.” It was only through conquering this fear that Evan became the musician he is today. “Everybody in the Jazz band knew exactly how bad I was, but the fact that I was playing instead of staying quiet made me better.” The lessons he learned, however harsh, exceed the scope of music alone, and apply themselves to the grand scope of life. Jazz by nature involves a lot of improvisation, and having to come up with a beautiful piece of music on the spot in front of a crowd is a daunting task.”The idea that you just had to make things up — the fact that there is no right answer and that it was all in my control was foreign to me at first. That concept and the associated stage fright of any performance made improv pretty scary. Overcoming that has changed the way I look at things in life.”
Another important aspect of his musical career is the Charisma Sax Quartet, a name created minutes before their first performance. “It was a source of enjoyment and fun.We were playing just because we loved it, and we made a place where you could be very comfortable experimenting. That was a very low risk environment for me.” The Charisma Sax Quartet, comprising of Evan, Shangyan Li ’14, Michael Ma ’15 and Malik Jabati ’15 has performed numerous times throughout the year, to the delight of many audiences. Originally formed in Third Form just to play “Bohemian Rhapsody,”they have (thankfully) stayed together to this day.
Evan’s final performance with Groton will be on the summer trip to Cuba. “I’m mostly excited about the location. We don’t know much, since not a lot of Americans get to go to Cuba. ” Evan and Lola will be seeing many more on the warm beaches of Palo Alto, where he hopes to join a Jazz Band or start a smaller group of his own. Whatever happens, there is no doubt that he will be long remembered (once again, pun intended) by the Jazz Ensemble as their loudest player ever.