Blues and Browne

Jazz Ensemble performs at the Chapland ‘24 Jazz Concert
Aakash Aggrwal
Jazz ensemble plays “Mambo Hot” in the Chapland ‘24 Jazz Festival in the PAC Friday, May 3. Long-time music teacher Joe Morales and guest artist Tom Browne also soloed on this piece.

The crowd watched in silence as Tom Browne confidently strutted onto the stage. Last Friday May 3, the jazz ensemble’s “Chapland Jazz 2024 Concert” took center stage in the PAC. The concert featured a well-known guest artist, Tom Browne, who played with the jazz ensemble. Browne is an American jazz trumpeter known for his hit song “Funkin’ for Jamaica” (N.Y.) Some of his other hit songs include “Brighter Tomorrow”, “Throw Down”, and “Charisma”.

“We have a tradition of bringing in guest artists for the concert like this,” Director of Jazz Ensemble John Pearson said. “I know Tom personally, so this was a little different than last year. He worked with me back at my old job in North Carolina several years ago.”

The concert traditionally starts off with an array of pieces played by the jazz club, a small collection of middle and high school students that aren’t in the jazz ensemble but have a passion for music. This year, the jazz club played arrangements of the famous pieces “Bag’s Groove,” “Fat Burger,” “Watch it now!”, and ended their presentation with Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man”.

“Last year, the jazz club only played two songs, so this year we played four songs,” Pearson said. “That’s part of the reason I’m confident that the club was stronger this year just because we were able to learn so much faster and learn more music.”

After the jazz club’s performances, the concert took a short intermission to set up for the jazz ensemble. Following the intermission, the band got on stage with Pearson, and continued the concert with a rendition of Charlie Parker’s “Anthropology”. The piece featured seniors AB Brown, Kole Aitala, Graham Simpler, Adam Wright and freshman Jack Decker as soloists. This piece was also the first song of the concert that featured Browne, who soloed along with the players. 

In a brief pause between pieces, the band gave shoutouts to Pearson, TEC and long-time music teacher Joe Morales for supporting the band and performance. 

After the acknowledgements, the jazz ensemble continued the concert with the famous piece “Air Paddle”, originally written by John Mahoney, with featured soloists Brown and junior Vidhur Seshadri. Pearson announced that he wanted to start off the concert with a difficult piece to showcase the performers’ skill right in the beginning. The band spent a lot more time on it than the other pieces, as the music was passed out in September, Pearson stated. Morales also came into class a couple of times to help the rhythm section with their parts, Pearson added.

“I knew it was gonna be really challenging, but the band was excited about playing it,” Pearson said. “I was like ‘okay if you guys wanna do it, then we’ll go for it.’ We just kept working on it intermittently. We plugged away at it [for] literally the whole year.” 

After “Air Paddle”, the band went on to perform one of Herbie Hancock’s most famous hits, “Maiden Voyage”, featuring junior Gabby Van Meter, Wright, Decker and senior Ty Graham as soloists.

Next, the band played a very well-known piece, “I Got Rhythm”, featuring the singer senior Presley Mathis. However, instead of performing it as in the regular version, the band chose to throw in some jazzy solos as well from Aitala and Simpler. 

Mathis, a choir student, isn’t in the jazz ensemble but started singing with them last year when he was taking lessons with Morales, Pearson said. He performed “Fly Me to the Moon,” a Frank Sinatra tune, last year at this same concert, Pearson added. 

“It was a huge hit,” Pearson said. “Then we had Presley singing “My Funny Valentine” with us earlier in the year, like one of our performances at some jazz club. He wanted to sing another tune for the spring concert, so we worked up “I Got Rhythm”.”

After “I Got Rhythm”, the band played “Off the Hook”, a famous tune written by Jeff Jarvis. Pearson explained how it was one of the more recent that the band had started in March.

Next was another piece focused on Browne, called “Blue”, written by Bobby Shew. After that somber music, the mood completely changed with some lively Latin tunes. The piece was called “Mambo Hot”, originally written by Victor Lopez. It also featured Morales, who soloed on the piece along with senior Max Werkenthin, senior Reid Kizer, junior Troy Rosales, and Browne.

Next, after a thank you to the jazz parents who help the jazz ensemble, the band performed a tribute to Ms. Sara Beechner, the official Jazz Band Parent Representative and the mother of Aitala. 

Ms. Beechner served in this role the past 2 school years. The piece performed was Ms. Beechner’s favorite song, “Blackbird”, written by the popular English band “The Beatles”. The band put their own twist on it, with Brown, Aitala, Simpler and Browne soloing on it.

The Chapland jazz concert, a yearly tradition, ended after about two hours. Pearson said that the concert was a huge success. However, even after this success, the jazz ensemble is still discussing ways in which they can improve their concert. 

The possibility of an alumni jazz band being featured in the concert has also been discussed, Pearson said. However, the main problem regarding this is the duration of the concert, and how the jazz ensemble can feature a variety of players while keeping the concert fun and entertaining for the audience, Pearson added.

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