Jazz bands, choirs set for Saturday show

On Saturday, Feb. 4, four of Cedar Falls High School’s finest musical ensembles will come together in an annual tradition of jazz.

This year’s jazz show will be the largest in recent memory. Last year, no jazz choirs performed, and prior to that only one did, but with two vocal ensembles this year, the jazz show will be bigger than ever before.

Jazz, Too! will kick off the high school portion of the concert. Director Gerald Ramsey described their selections. “‘Red Clay,’ the classic Freddie Hubbard composition, arranged by Mike Kamuf, gives several kids the chance to improvise solos, and it features our bass player, Aidan Flack, on the tune’s iconic bass line. ‘Fancy Pants’ was originally written for the Count Basie Orchestra by Sammy Nestico, who then wrote this high school level chart that maintains the spirit of the original. It is a great chance for the band to play a Basie-style work. ‘The Creole Love Call’ gives brass players John Dunlop and Duncan Meyer the opportunity for some solo plunger work on this Duke Ellington classic arranged by Mark Taylor. Our final selection is Ray Bryant’s ‘Cubano Chant,’ which he wrote originally for Art Blakey. In our rendition, arranged by Victor López, we abandon the drum set, and employ a more traditional Afro-Cuban percussion section — timbales, congas, bongos, and claves.”

Following that, Jazz Choir II will perform “Zemabia,” an upbeat, bright composition, and “Blue Skies,” an Irving Berlin classic from the musical “Betsy.”

Jazz Choir I follows them, singing “Don’t Know Why,” a laid-back Norah Jones tune, and “Moondance,” a fun arrangement of the classic Van Morrison tune.

Jazz Band One will close out the concert, and director Kyle Engelhardt said, “For our jazz show, we will do a classic swing chart by Ellington called ‘Across the Track Blues,’ an up-tempo chart written for the Count Basie Band titled ‘You Got It,’ a new, original contemporary composition called ‘Firsts’ by Mike Conrad, a swing chart titled ‘That’s All’ with featured vocalist Mallorie Sckerl, and a Latin composition by Brian Lynch called ‘Guajira Dubois.’ We are bringing in Mr. Chris Merz, director of jazz studies at UNI, to be a featured guest soloist on two of the selections.”

This will be the first performance of the season for the two jazz bands; the vocal ensembles debuted their set at Monday evening’s choir pops concert.

In preparing for this performance, the groups faced some challenges. Ramsey described some early troubles. “During first semester, several of our members had early bird PE/health, drivers ed or other activities that conflicted with our rehearsal times, so we ran a very limited rehearsal schedule in November in December,” he said.

Since then, Jazz, Too! has found its sound and become comfortable with the music and with each other. Sophomore drummer Jeremy Marchesani said, “I am with a great group, and we all get along, so it’s always a good time to play and improvise.”

Junior vocalist Joel Bruss also voiced some struggles with jazz. “For me, much of the challenge within the pieces we are performing has to deal with the range of the music. It was sometimes difficult for me, as a bass, to fit in with the rest of the ensemble. We must adjust our voices to tune with each other to make the pieces sound musically accurate.”

Still, jazz is a favorite of students and many are looking forward to the upcoming concert. Senior vocalist Abbie Lund said, “I am so excited for the jazz show because the music is so fun, and easy to listen to. The jazz show is the best, and it’s my favorite concert every year.”

Senior trombonist Jack Dunning echoed her sentiment. “The jazz show is always my favorite performance of the year. Bringing both the band and choir kids all together for one performance makes for an awesome crowd and a great variety of jazz styles.”

Junior vocalist Clare Rolinger shared her excitement as well. “I’m really looking forward to performing in an event with the ensembles from different music departments. We rarely get the opportunity to perform with the other ensembles at our school, so I think it will be a wonderful opportunity to spend time with them and put together a production that will make all of us proud.”

The Jazz Show will be held this Saturday evening, Feb. 4, in the C.C. Stanard Auditorium. The junior high portion will begin at 5 p.m., with a dinner break before the high school event starts at 7:30. Tickets are $5 for adults and $4 for students.

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