Charlize Althea Garcia | The Poly Post

CPP Jazz Ensembles swing its way into audience hearts

By Victoria Mejicanos, April 25, 2023

In the heat of concert season, with a full recital hall shining lights and a buzz of excitement, the Cal Poly Pomona Jazz Band and Jazz Combo performed a variety of classics with a modern flair provided by new arrangements composed by special guest Teryn Ré April 13.

The concert began with the Jazz Combo performing, “How High the Moon.” Sung by Hayley Strange, it began with all the traditional elements of jazz. With scatting from Strange and accompaniment from the piano and drums, the solos that followed from each musician in the combo was a welcome surprise. The piece included improvisational additions inspired by jazz legends such as Charlie Parker.

Another piece, “Strasbourg / St. Denis” was full of charm as the group communicated with smooth head nods and turns to almost every section of the band, followed by claps from the audience.

The Jazz Band followed with “Switch in Time,” which was full of solos from performers. Romar Rivera, an international student from London studying Biotechnology was a stand-out piano soloist for the majority of the performance.

He spoke on the preparation that went into the concert, highlighting the team effort it takes to be successful. He explained the chemistry of the group is essential to a performance since the band practices together twice a week for four hours.

Charlize Althea Garcia | The Poly Post

“The majority of our rehearsals are practicing the piece as it looks on paper, making sure every section is in synch,” he said.

Peter Gutierrez, a music student expanded on the preparation for a concert, sharing that due to the older appearance of the sheet music and the overall improvisational nature of the genre itself, it can appear to look like a “napkin sketch.” Often having a handwritten quality about it, it prompts students to rely on past recordings to guide their performance.

“A lot of the nuances that really separate you from being a good jazz player and a great jazz player is listening to these recordings,” Gutierrez said. “Listening is just as important as practicing.”

Another important component of practice is sectionals, where musicians in the same group work together to perfect their individual sound. Through practice with each other they can “open their third ear” and begin to listen to each other so they can better improvise the day of the performance according to Rivera.

The band continued with “Such Sweet Thunder” composed by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. The jazz duo found inspiration in an unlikely place: a Shakespeare Festival. The following year, with the famous playwright as their inspiration, they released it in New York.

After a variety of songs from the Jazz Band, Ré was introduced to the audience by jazz band director Tom Luer, who during a speech described her as a “wonderful artist and a fantastic human being who embodies what a modern jazz artist is all about.”

Ré is a singer, composer, arranger and a faculty member at many other universities in California. Ré began her portion of the concert accompanied by the band, singing “If You Never Fall in Love With Me,” a piece about unrequited love and its consequences on the person affected.

Her voice highlighted the importance of referencing recordings, as her delicate style of singing replicated the sound and feel of past recordings. She also often gave knowing looks to the band, allowing the synchronicity between the two to build organically.

The concert continued with a special arrangement of the popular classical piece “Clair de Lune.” There were multiple solos that balanced the original whimsical nature of the piece, while including the fragmented and improvisational nature of jazz.

Rivera, who is classically trained in piano, explained the thought process behind his soloing.

“The backbone of my playing as a whole is just wanting to move people, to make them want to do something cool,” Rivera said.

Feature image courtesy of Charlize Althea Garcia

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