Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Beavercreek Weekend of Jazz (WOJ), 2012

The Beavercreek Weekend of Jazz (WOJ), 2012

Saturday of the WOJ is one of my favorite days of the year. Where else can you hear so many high school jazz bands performing all day long. I love jazz but I love to hear all the musical talent in area schools. And I was able to attend the entire day again this year. Here is who played.


Under the direction of Josh Baker The Centerville High School Jazz Ensemble kicked off with a Bob Curnow Big Band composition, Slideshow. This was definitely a big band sound, five trombones, one solo after another and a nice sax soli. Then a Tito Puente piece, Ran Kan Kan, with a full drum set and full percussion set. The drums and percussion trade offs were attention grabbing. There was also good horn punctuation and the entire song had great Puente-like percussion sounds. Next up was one of my favorites, Fables of Faubus by Charles Mingus, with a bari –sax solo kick off backed up by two bass trombones, very well done and very enjoyable. The final selection was the band’s best, short but powerful, Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey! I can’t even remember the last time I heard that song. The percussionist moved to the drums and there was a very nice sax soli kick off. It was very up-tempo and a great piece on which to finish.


Under the direction of Dan Nicora (of Dayton Jazz Orchestra fame), The Kettering Fairmont High School Jazz Ensemble I was Big Band all the way! They started off with Duke Ellington’s Cottontail which included a good sax solo followed by a good guitar solo. It also included a well played sax soli. Next up was Groove Blues which was hard hitting from the very 1st note. And the band was definitely in a groove plus they were forceful when needed and subtle when needed. There was a strong trombone solo and even a bari-sax solo. The final selection was a Tower of Power tune entitled What is Hip? The drummer had a Big Band Sound that drove the band. There were two sax soloists who traded back and forth – very good! All I could say was wow!!

Centerville Jazz Ensemble II

Under the direction of Michael Voytek, The Centerville Jazz Ensemble II started off with a female vocalist on A Foggy Day (in London Town). She turned into a sax player on the next tune which was a Latin song entitled Juan of These Days. This was a very strong performance with a Big Band Sound and the drummer kept the beat going throughout. The last song was Another Excuse to Play the Blues and this selection had a Big Band Sound from the very 1st note. The song included nice trombone and sax solis. There were solos to go around but the drummer drove the performance.

Deer Park

Under the direction of Joe Vetter the Deer Park High School Jazz Band started things off with a tune entitled Go Ask Your Mother. Hit by a flu bug the band was only 12 musicians strong, small but mighty! Next up was a Thad Jones composition, Ah- That’s Freedom. The band had both strong and subtle punctuation throughout, helped by a jazz pro fill in on piano. A female drummer stood out on the first two tunes. There was a drummer switch for the next selection, After Sunset. An alto sax player carried the song throughout with a beautifully played subtle solo. The final selection was Herbie Hancock’s Chameleon. A female bass trombone player kicked things off and carried the song with strong help from her other three trombone mates. One of the fellows played a very confident solo that was followed by a well played electric bass solo.


Under the direction of Bill Burns (also of Dayton Jazz Orchestra fame), the 32 piece Centerville High School Jazz Band III kicked off with a tribute to the birth of Glenn Miller with his song, A String of Pearls, and though perhaps a tentative start, Bill Burns had them up to speed quickly. Next up was Duke Ellington’s Mood Indigo. Possibly the smallest drummer I have ever seen rode the cymbals just right throughout the entire song. This was an ambitious selection and included an eleven piece sax soli very well executed. But the next tune took the cake, Count Basie’s April in Paris (don’t give them anything simple to do Bill) – the band did a great job on this one and when they hit the notes for the line “April in Paris” I can tell you that Count Basie would have been proud. The last selection, Street Beat, was a swingin’ funky tune with a number of soloists, five of which were sax players – Bill Burns is a sax player after all – but it also had a memorable guitar solo and even a clarinet solo! I would also mention this band had 2 guitars and a French horn – Bill Burns is a magician!


Under the direction of Todd Hartman, The Lakota East High School 8 O’clock Jazz Ensemble had a Big Band Sound beyond their chronological age, kicking off their performance by playing a Thad Jones piece, Low Down. It was a short piece but very well done. Next was Sammy Nestico’s Katie, a toned down pace with nice drum brush work. The song also included a nice alto sax and muted trumpet solos. Next up was Straighten Up and Fly Right with a female vocalist. It was a very credible version of a Nat King Cole classic. The final tune was John Coltrane’s Naima which featured very nice tenor sax work by Merrick Morgan and a guitar solo done very well but played in a style that was closer to a rock guitar solo than a jazz guitar solo.


Under the direction of Joe Polen, the Kings High School Jazz Band started things off with Cole Porter’s I Get A Kick Out of You. A female bass player was an integral part of a Big Band Sound. This was followed by the jazz standard, Speak Low. Maggie Vetter had what turned out to be the best solo of the day as she was featured on trombone, very nice. Their third song was one of my favorite jazz tunes, written by one of my favorite composers (Bobby Timmons) and made famous by one of my favorite jazz groups in Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. Director Polen added it to the repertoire as a reward to the band getting up to speed just in time for WOJ. The band performed wonderfully and did not miss a note. They finished with the challenging La Suerte De Los Tentos, a Stan Kenton classic. The song included very fitting percussion and a nice tenor sax solo. This band did very, very well on all four of their selections.

Miami East

Under the direction of Jeffrey Smith, the Miami East High School Jazz Band kicked things off with a great Cannonball Adderley tune, Sack of Woe. I don’t believe I have ever heard this a big band version of this song and they did a credible job with their female drummer helping them to big finish. Next was an original ballad entitled Matter of Time, which put me in mind of the jazz classic, Satin Doll, and it was challenging in its subtleties. The 3rd selection was the Jobim classic, The Girl from Ipanema, played with a slow tempo and a very nice tenor sax solo. Last up was the up tempo Count Basie tune, Jumpin’ at the Woodside and the band did a nice job of walkin’ the step downs. This song gave the female drummer a chance to show her chops with a nice bari-sax solo and another big finish.


Under the direction of Tom Pompei (formerly the big band drummer for the Dayton Jazz Orchestra), the 27 piece Magsig Middle School Jazz Ensemble started things off with One for the Mooch. The band included 4 vibes players (only in a percussionist directed band), a violin and I believe a Euphonium and this song even had a bari-sax solo but the piano really helped carry the song. Next was Steep & Deep with a very catchy Latin beat, flute solo, violin solo and Euphonium solo. The final selection was a Chuck Mangione tune entitled Fun and Games and the drummer who had played so well earlier was now on vibes. As I had kept waiting to hear Director Pompei cut lose a solo from one of his drummers, it turned out that the vibes solo was used instead. Hyemin Kim did a great job on both drums and vibes. While the music stands were almost taller than the guitar player and a trumpet player, it did not keep them from having a Big Band Sound.

Kings Jr High

Under the direction of Joe Polen The Kings Junior High School Jazz Band kicked things off with Moten Swing. The band did a credible job with a swing classic. Next up, another classic in Comin’ Home Baby which included a nice tenor sax solo. The band was really tight on the next selection, Connecting with the Blues, which included a trade off between tenor sax and bari-sax very well done. Director Polen introduced the final tune as based on a world famous samba brought to his attention, La Negra Tiene Tumbab. The band did a nice job on this song as well.

Unfortunately, apparently illness struck the Lebanon Junior High School Jazz Band bad enough that they were not able to field a band so next up was a Beavercreek band. However, up to this point in the various band performances there had been back lighting throughout the auditorium sufficient to take notes about each band performance but inexplicably, suddenly the auditorium was pitch black and note taking was not possible. Much more could have been noted about the next two bands but notes were not possible.


The Beavercreek High School Jazz Ensemble Two began in a highly unusual way, after being introduced there was little or no activity as the house lights went to dark. Then a female percussionist came out and sat down on stage with a drum and began a slow tempo, then stage right a trumpet player suddenly appeared in the back of the auditorium slowly advancing towards the stage playing slowly as well, then a trombone player entered suddenly from the opposite side of the auditorium slowly advancing towards the stage and playing slowly also. Then finally a sax player entered the auditorium and all three converged onto the stage and the drummer as the band filed in from offstage to take their seats. The first song was entitled Street Music. This was followed by a Lennie Niehaus composition, A Hint of Mint. The lone female drummer from the band entrance now played a vibes solo. Billie Holiday’s God Bless the Child was up next and trombone player Rob Aga did a very nice job fronting the band as he was featured on this tune. The final selection was Black Pearls and included an acoustic/classical guitar intro and a flute solo. The band was under the direction of Michael Bisig.

Thought with the unusualness of the previous performance that maybe the house lights being brought down to pitch dark had to do with a desired effect for the performance but unfortunately the house lights were brought down to pitch black for the next performance as well.


Under the direction of Todd Hartman the Lakota West High School Jazz Ensemble started things off with John Coltrane’s Blue Trane. The performance was very tight and well done. This was followed by the band backing a female vocalist singing George Gershwin’s Someone to Watch Over Me. Duke Ellington’s Harlem Airshaft was up next with some well executed tenor sax trade offs. The final selection was a Thad Jones tune entitled Us. This performance contained a nice tenor sax solo and a clarinet solo. Maybe the clarinet is working its way back into big band jazz. I say hurray!


The pleasant surprise of the day for me was the Edgewood High School Jazz Ensemble I under the direction of Jon Arnold. I do not believe I had heard this band before and they were up to the task at hand throughout all three of their selections. First up was the Blood, Sweat and Tears tune entitled Lucretia Mac Evil. There was an excellent guitar solo by Adam Hacker which was more rock than jazz just like the previous guitar solo but in this case it fit the song very well as it was a rock hit from the 60s. With a sharp change in song selection, next up was Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade. Jacob Hill was featured on clarinet throughout this performance. Last was Louis Prima’s Sing, Sing, Sing with the necessary excellent drums throughout and a well placed clarinet solo. The song was very well done and had a great brass ending. Hear, hear for the clarinet!


Under the direction of former Stan Kenton lead trumpeter (and still of Dayton Jazz Orchestra fame) John Harner, the Xenia High School Jazz Ensemble kicked things off with something from the Buddy Rich book since The Buddy Rich Big Band was scheduled to play later than night. Groovin’ Hard had a great big band sound with a six saxophone soli and definitely a big band drummer. Next up was two female vocalists singing A Whole New World from the animated feature, Aladdin. This was followed by the Thelonious Monk tune, Round Midnight. There was an excellent trombone featured in this song by Alex McCoy and even after a three hour youth orchestra rehearsal he still had chops, possibly the best solo of the day. Interesting that the two best solos of the entire day were on trombone. The final selection was Whatever it Takes, and they busted out a Big Band Sound with big band drums, a cow bell with a driving beat and good ensemble work. The trombone and guitar solos were also very well done.

Lebanon High School Jazz Band

Under the direction of David Ianelli, The Lebanon High School Jazz Band kicked things off with the Dave Brubeck classic, Blue Rhondo a la Turk (strained my brain trying to remember the name of this tune that I readily recognized since there were no selection entries in the program for Lebanon). The band was tight with a Big Band Sound and with Rob Hodge and Trevor Able providing nice alto sax solos. Harrison Miller played some well timed drums and the vibes fit very well into the performance. The next song was Berceuse (Spanish for Lullaby) for Mallory played partially in 10/8 time. This was a beautiful song with good ensemble work which picked up the tempo with a couple of sax solos followed by a guitar solo. Next up was Queen Bee, really putting me in mind of Satin Doll. Their final selection was After You’ve Gone which had a very full Big Band Sound with confident guitar solos and very nice vibes work.


Under the direction of Todd Hartman, the Lakota East High School Eastside Jazz Ensemble jumped into their performance with Duke Ellington’s Braggin’ in Brass with staccato muted trumpet and trombone followed by a staccato trumpet solo, followed by a staccato trombone and then a trumpet solo again. The next selection was Dizzy Gillespie’s A Night in Tunisia which interestingly enough included a female vocalist doing a slow melodic scat followed by a trombone solo, a trumpet solo, a tenor sax solo and finally a guitar solo and the female vocalist helped finish out the song. Ellington’s Tutti for Cootie [no doubt for long time Ellington trumpet player Cootie Williams] followed with excellent ensemble work and trumpet trade offs between Brendan Todahl and Michael Dudley. The final tune was Maria Schneider’s Bird Count, a rather frantic dissonant piece with another excellent Brendan Todahl trumpet solo. Brendan stood above most of the other trumpet soloists of the day. Three bands directed by Todd Hartman throughout the day and all three were on top of their game.


Under the direction of Brian Wissman, The Troy High School Jazz II band was up next. Unfortunately I missed their first two offerings, Just A Closer Walk with Thee and Short Circuit (actually I was back stage and while the band sounded good I was not honed in on specific aspects of the first two songs). The band was very tight on Come in From the Rain and blew out a Big Band Sound on their final selection, a Weekend of Jazz favorite, Area 51, which had good trumpet ensemble work.

Under the direction of Katherine McIntosh was the Troy High School Jazz I band who kicked things off with a Miles Davis classic, Four which contained a good trumpet solo and a good Big Band Sound. This was followed by Nat King Cole’s Straighten Up and Fly Right with a female vocalist who had some fun with the song and she was helped along by a good trumpet solo and good guitar backup all through the song. The third great selection was Moten Swing which really did swing, contained a good trumpet solo and built to a big finish. It was a great big band tune. Then going four for four, the last selection was a fun tune and had a great Big Band Sound, Dizzy Gillespie’s Oop Bop Sh’Bam – lot’s of fun and great big band musicianship.


Under the direction of Doug McCullough, the host band Beavercreek High School Jazz Ensemble One kicked off the final portion of the day long high school band performances with Fly Me to the Moon, a well known jazz classic in this case arranged by Sammy Nestico, what a great full Big Band Sound. Up next was a song dedicated to the baritone saxophone, some might say appropriately entitled Honk and as might be expected, it was kicked off by a bari-sax solo. The song also contained an excellent tenor sax solo. Next up was a nice and easy piece entitled Carla. The piano solo by Clement Lu was not exactly a soft solo as the might have been expected with the way the entire band was playing but was very deliberate with punctuated notes, very well done, very interesting. The last, but most certainly not least (one must throw in a cliché now and then), song was entitled Celtic Aire, with ensemble work which put me in mind of a Gregorian chant as it started off with an alto sax Celtic-like solo. The remainder of the song did sound very Irish in nature with tempo changes and another sax (tenor) solo and building to a crescendo ending. I might just have to give this band the best performance of the day award. A fitting ending to a great day of high school big band jazz performances. Thank you Beavercreek for hosting the annual Weekend of Jazz and thanks for such a great performance to end the day.

But wait, there was one more treat in store. Sylvan Station came back to the stage (as quickly as they could change the stage around) and played four more songs to really did end the day in jazz. Since I did not get to attend the Friday night concert it was an unexpected very pleasant surprise. I dare say they knocked it out of the ball park. They played selections from their Grammy nominated recording Here in America, one selection that has gone viral on the internet was Free the Toronto Nine – naturally you can check it out on the internet. Another Grammy nominated tune was an original tune written by the keyboard player (believe that was entitled Song for M) which was a duet with the soprano saxophonist, quite moving. But the one that made the biggest impression on me was a trumpet duel which pretty much sounded like Arturo Sandoval dueling Maynard Ferguson, paint was pealing off the walls in this battle. Beavercreek Band Director Doug McCullough, who is a fantastic drummer in his own right, was a guest percussionist with Sylvan Street. What a great surprise ending to a fantastic day of jazz!!

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