Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Jim Davis of Grantsville reacts to being put in a straitjacket as he and Scott Caress, left, perform as The Outlaws at Utah Arts Festival.

Original jazz music played by its creators captivated Utah Arts Festival attendees Friday night.

Utah's Melanie Shore and Courtney Smith performed with the Salt Lake Jazz Orchestra, premiering their own compositions on the Festival Stage. The two, who have definitely proven their ability to compose behind the scenes, were commissioned by the Utah Arts Festival to demonstrate their talents on stage.

Conductor and jazz program coordinator Henry Wolking said they changed the angle this year so the composer could also be the performer.

"I think the public will be very surprised at the talent they were unaware of," Wolking said before their performance.

Both artists have been recognized publicly before.

After taking a closer look at Shore's hands, one might recognize them as the piano-playing hands in the movie "High School Musical," filmed in Utah.

"It's the most visible thing she's done," Wolking said.

Smith has also been playing somewhat behind the scenes as the organist for the choir at Calvary Baptist Church. Wolking said Smith has played for them for a long time.

"He has a lot of gospel background," Wolking said.

Wolking has been rehearsing with the two musicians for the past three weeks. He said Shore's piece "Wishful Thinking" is more of a contemporary, swing band style.

"Think Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett," Wolking said. "Very sophisticated."

Shore said she actually thought of the song during a long bus ride.

Her thought was, "I wish I was off this bus," Shore said. And the music came naturally. Shore's friend, jazz singer Kelly Eisenhower, wrote and sang the lyrics, which had none of the feel of a boring bus ride.

Smith's piece, "The Cool," on the other hand, is more reminiscent of the cool jazz pioneered by Miles Davis, Wolking said.

"It's a marvelous composition, and he's a spectacular performer."

After the performance, Smith said playing his own music with the band was beautiful.

"There's an element of interaction with the other players," Smith said. He said when he hears bands playing his music, it's difficult to fight the urge to go join in.

Speaking of spotlights, the Earth Harp created and played by Bill Close has been shining the entire festival. The giant harp strings stretched over the Salt Lake Library have caught everyone's attention, and Close plays them during jam sessions at 8 each night of the festival.

This will most likely be his first and last gig in Salt Lake City, said Barb Guy, public relations coordinator for the UAF.

"Unless he wants to string up another building," Guy said.


E-MAIL: mbennett@desnews.com