By Christian Ulrich, Nov. 8, 2022
On Nov. 1 the Cal Poly Pomona Jazz Band performed with two–time Grammy award winner Jay Jennings in front of a packed crowd at the CPP music recital hall.
Jennings, trumpet player for jazz group Snarky Puppy in Denton, Texas, joined the group for an evening of classic swing and modern jazz. Before the performance, Jennings attended an open rehearsal with the group and held a masterclass open to the public.
Tom Luer, director for the jazz band, mentioned before the show how beneficial it was for his students to have someone like Jennings perform with the band.
“The students can learn a lot from him, he is a world class trumpet player and was by the time he was out of high school. He can be inspirational by sharing the hard work he put in at a young age in order to get to where he is in his career now,” said Luer.
As director of the jazz band, Luer’s list of responsibilities include holding rehearsals, planning recitals and booking guest artists. Among the most important of Luers duties is deciding what songs are to be played at recitals. Of the 10 songs played at the concert, seven were by the Count Basie Band.
“Most of what we are playing was composed and arranged by Sammy Nestico, who composed and arranged for the Basie band on most of their major records like ‘Atomic Basie’ and ‘Basie Straight Ahead,’ we live in this music for a couple of months and hopefully the result at the end is representative of all the hard work and so far, it is,” said Luer.
As far as its most important representations, to him the Basie band fully represents what big band music is.
Luer’s students are extremely committed to their instruments, practicing each and every nuance for months at a time to bring together a solid performance.
Samuel Williamson, guitarist for the jazz band, mentioned that performing with Jennings was a great experience and that Jennings instilled a lot of confidence in each member of the band. Williamson credits Luer’s teaching style as a main reason for the group’s dedication to their craft.
“Tom is awesome, a great director. He is always open for students to communicate with him in terms of improvising, advice on melodies, he cracks us up too, joking with us constantly,” said Williamson.
Playing in the CPP jazz band is no easy feat. Practicing, studying and learning an instrument takes countless hours of dedication; adding classes on top of that makes things more perplexing.
For jazz band drummer Anai Hernandez, dividing up her week is necessary to staying on top of her responsibilities.
“It’s difficult to find time to practice, that’s why I decided to be a music major. The majority of my time is spent practicing and it supports my major. I try to leave spaces in my schedule to practice as much as I can and I have to plan out my weeks in advance,” said Hernandez.
Come performance time, the band is ready, wearing suits and dresses, to put on a show.
Hernandez mentioned that her favorite part of performing is the give and take interaction with the crowd.
“You feel the energy that the audience is giving off and the energy you are creating on stage, and it adds to the performance. It’s a great thing to be a part of,” said Hernandez.
For details regarding future CPP jazz band concerts, visit their website.
Feature image courtesy of Christian Ulrich
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