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Diablo Valley College was stage for a groovy jazz night: find out how it went

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Concert Review

The Three Way Jazz concert at X College on October 1, 2014 was one groovy show! Before the concert, I didn’t really know what to expect from a jazz show at a community college, but I was in for an amazing surprise. All three bands performing that night delivered great pleasure to my ears and my soul! I would definitely see them all again, especially the FANTASTIC Big Bad Four.

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The Performing Arts Center at Diablo Valley College is a spacious and welcoming theater. I could tell that the theater had a really nice sound quality even before the bands started playing. The wood panels covering the walls and the comfy chairs added to the awesome vibe of the venue. The Performing Arts Center is far away from a jazz club, but it holds a big audience and is properly equipped for high quality sound – and that’s enough for a good show. About one third to a half of all the seats were filled (it seemed like more people came throughout the show) and the crowd appeared really enthusiastic. As 8 o’clock hit, the first band took their places on stage and after a short introduction from the director Matt Zebley they quickly got right to the music. That’s how I like my shows – less words, more music! The overall vibe at the concert was really chill and the excited audience definitely added to the experience.

The first band to perform was the DVC Jazz Ensemble, and they were very much on point! The DVC Jazz Ensemble consists of a saxophone section (2 alto, 2 tenor, 1 baritone sax), a trombone section (4 trombones), a trumpet section (4 trumpets) and a really groovy rhythm section (vibraphone, guitar, stand up/electric bass, piano, drums and percussion). Overall, the band had really good flow and they worked together well to create music. They traded solos dynamically and most musicians got to have a solo, which was awesome. I could tell that some musicians were less experienced than others, and even though they were a little bit nervous during their solos, they were still brilliant! I really enjoyed Andrew Berella’s solos on the tenor saxophone as well as everyone else’s sweet improvisations. Amanda Wandesforde’s bass performance was quite interesting, and it was wonderful to see a lady playing bass! The second song played by the band, St. Thomas, started with a really cool drum intro. The big hand drums used in the introduction and throughout the song added a tropical feel to the music. There was an awesome trombone solo accompanied well by the rhythm section with a beautiful guitar line. The band had some awesome trading solos, and I absolutely loved the drum-off between the drummer on the hand drum and on the drum set (they were also trading solos in a way). The song Street Music, which was my favorite played by this band, started with the whole band clapping, and then the crowd joined in with the claps. Horns played melody for several measures in the beginning and the middle of the song, building up the energy. There was an amazing tenor sax solo followed by a guitar solo, and these solo breaks fit well in the overall tempo of the song. The drummer’s performance throughout this song really stood out, leaving me very impressed. I loved his syncopated beats. The section of trading 2s between the horns (saxophones and trumpets) and rhythm instruments (guitar, piano and drums) at the end of the song was amazing!

The Big Bad Four is one of the sexiest bands I’ve ever encountered (and I am talking about both the sound and the appearance). This amazing quartet includes Martin Lejano on trumpet, Jheynner Argote on guitar, Trevor Murphy on bass, and Tyler McClellan on drums. These four young musicians are very talented and highly skilled. Their improvisations were breath-taking and although they only played 3 songs, they made a very strong impression on everyone in the audience. I was particularly fascinated with the second song they played, Speak No Evil composed by Wayne Shorter, which had a psychedelic and really deep sound. The amazing syncopated and completely uneven drum beat introduction was joined by stand up bass, and the two musicians created some spooky and surreal sounds in a call and response fashion. The whole band slowly joined in and started to play the melody, with the walking bass swinging those 8ths. So groovy! The guitar solo sounded really mystical because of the pedals used by the guitarist, who traded solos with the trumpeter. Martin Lejano used a mute for a couple of his trumpet solos which made the sound quieter. Both soloists were so into the music that their eyes were closed during their solos… Their music was really passionate and full of unexpected notes. The syncopated drums and the bass accompanied the trumpeter’s solo. The whole song mostly consisted of trading solos between the front line instruments (guitar and trumpet here). This song put me in a dream-like state and made me think of the ocean and some far-away lands. It was beautiful inside and out, and ended with some really trippy sounds. The band really sped up the rhythm when they came to their last song, Squadville, in which extremely syncopated drums accompanied the trumpet solo. This song was really uptempo and it definitely raised the energy in the audience. I found that band members supported each other really well throughout their solos and created awesome accompaniments. I loved this song because everybody got to solo, including the drummer and the bassist. Trevor Murphy had an AMAZING solo on his electric 6 string bass. All the members of The Big Bad Four were so good that I can’t find enough words to describe their skills, but I think it’s worth mentioning that they made me want to get up and dance right then and there!

Last but not least, the DVC Night Jazz Band was an amazing and really big ensemble, the biggest jazz band I have ever seen. There was a woodwind section (2 alto saxophones, 2 tenor saxophones, a baritone saxophone and a flute), an awesome brass section (3 trombones, 2 bass trombones, trumpets and even flugelhorns), a big rhythm section and even a vocalist. It was really interesting to see how a band this big is working together to create a song. It takes a lot of directing to organize a band like this and all the musicians had very good timing. One song that stood out to me was a really fun tune The Funk Stomps Here. The title was very promising and the band totally went beyond my expectations! Funky bass notes on the electric bass by the wonderful Trevor Murphy set the melody for the song. Guitar instrumentation was wonderful and the vibraphone added really cool high vibrating notes. Double timing by the drummer (Tyler McClellan) was an awesome addition to the overall fast and groovy song. This song was funky but classical at the same time, which I thought was an amazing combination. The whole band was grooving and even dancing a little bit to this great melody, and their excitement totally got passed onto the audience.

Overall, the Three Way Jazz show was super enjoyable and lilting. These three bands made me fall in love with the DVC Jazz Department and I am definitely going to attend more of their shows. This concert put me in a very positive state of mind and gave me a lot of artistic inspiration. The rest of my week was definitely illuminated by the awesome vibes of this show, and I told a lot of friends about it. These groovy tunes totally made me want to dance, and that’s the only thing I regret – I should have danced right there in the theater. 😉

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