If the Lane Jazz Combos show was any indication, the future of jazz is alive and well.
The nearly full Blue Door Theatre hosted four student jazz combos displaying their skills June 3. Each group presented classic tunes from the jazz canon. Ron Bertucci, faculty director of the project, served as emcee.
Beginning with the Tim Jayne Combo, we heard the light midtempo swing of “All of Me.” They followed with the bossa nova feel of “Yesterdays” and the uptempo “Lady Bird.” Jayne, on guitar, led this quintet, which consisted of Sam Dale on trombone, Evan Lawrence on guitar, David Cooper on bass and Nelson Cornejo on drums. Dale’s solos got the evening off to a lively start, while Lawrence’s rhythmic chording knitted the group together.
Next the Schwartz/Davey Combo opened with the Herbie Hancock jazz-funk classic “Cantaloupe Island.” Cheree Pelkey’s vocal renditions of “Fly Me to the Moon,” the ballad “My Foolish Heart” and the uptempo “Out Of Nowhere” were backed by the solid rhythm section of pianist Phil Davey, bassist Austyn Moore and drummer Josh Schwartz. Throughout this set, Charles Demonnin’s trombone solos plumbed the depths of his instruments’ lower register to a delighted audience.
The Dalton Lott Combo, a septet led by guitarist Dalton Lott, included Kelly Kelso on trumpet, Alvin Johnson on piano, Jordan Nelson on viola, Calvan Christ on bass and Nick Alvarez on drums. Featured vocalist Natasha Herbert kicked off the set with Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll.” Kelso’s muted trumpet gave a Miles Davis feel to his solo.
Then they launched into Juan Tizol’s “Caravan.” The distinctive mood of their complex arrangement transported the listener to the edge of the Sahara, under a star-filled sky. Nelson’s viola added to the exotic feel of this, as did Johnson’s lower-register chording.
The pace changed with a more quiet treatment of “Out of Nowhere,” highlighted by the rich tone of Nelson’s viola simply stating the melody.
This remarkably dynamic set ended with their own highly imaginative arrangement of Charlie “Yardbird” Parker’s legendary “Scrapple from the Apple,” which included clever stop-breaks. Kelso’s un-muted trumpet added fire to his solo on this bebop gem.
Johnson’s inspired piano solo drew the loudest applause of the evening. Underpinning the band was the strong and sensitive playing of both Christ and Alvarez.
The Sarah Burkhart Combo was a fine conclusion to the evening’s music. Her vocals were ably supported by “Cool” Raul Smith on trombone, Chris Lewis on guitar, Sean Perkins on bass and Mac Monson on drums. Burkhart’s ability to use ‘scat’ singing techniques gave an added dimension.
The audience happily accepted their “Invitation,” a downtempo swing, to start the set in a cool and mellow West Coast style. Notable was the trombone ‘vamping’ from Smith behind the vocals.
Two lovely jazz ballads followed: “Alone Together” and “Body and Soul.” Traditionally, jazz players give their interpretation of popular songs from Broadway musicals. The group used their own arrangements to express this.
On “Alone Together,” Smith used his mute with haunting effect. The band showed its control of dynamics by finishing with a slow fade-out. On “Body and Soul,” the influence of Billie Holiday shone through Burkhart’s vocals.
Closing the show was a lively version of “How High the Moon” joined with Parker’s “Ornithology.” Burkhart sang the complex melody of “Ornithology,” which was no simple task.
Perkins provided fluid bass lines and solos throughout the set, along with the tasteful and spare drumming of Monson. The soloing from the group was uniformly excellent.
The evening’s performance proved the high level of talent among the music students at Lane, who confidently demonstrated professionalism beyond their years.