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Jazzing it up at the Attic

Posted By Jessica Duff On April 15, 2009 @ 2:26 am In Arts and Entertainment | Comments Disabled

On Sunday March 29, the first Newton South Jazz festival was held at the restaurant Union Street at the Attic in a tradition that jazz teachers Richard Labedz and Lisa Linde hope to continue in the future. The performances consisted of Newton South’s four jazz groups and a guest group from Berklee College of Music.

The venue provided students with the experience of playing in a club-like setting, an excellent opportunity for future jazz musicians, rather than the usual venue of the South auditorium. Listeners contributed five dollar donations to help cover the cost of renting Union Street’s stage and time. Performers and listeners could also order food and drinks during the festival, creating plenty of business for Union Street, and hopefully encouraging a continued relationship between South and the restaurant.

Although the audience consisted mostly of South parents, customers also wandered up from the lower levels to listen to the music. Students seemed to really enjoy the new setting, and received enthusiastic applause from a crowded audience, something many previous concerts lacked. The D Block jazz improv group took the stage first. With more than one performer on each instrument, D Block played altogether, but also performed in smaller groups with only one performer per instrument.

The first two songs the group played, “Tune Up by Miles Davis and “Yardbird Suite by Charlie Parker, were of a more traditional style of jazz. The third piece, however, was an original composition written by freshman Josh Harlow called “The Shiz. The group finished with an upbeat tune called “Cissy Strut by The Meters that the audience seemed to particularly enjoy.

Next, the E Block jazz improv group performed, beginning with “Blue Bossa by Kenny Dorham, which had a classic latin feel. The ensemble also split into smaller groups like D Block did.

E Block finished with “All of Me by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons. Labedz, director of both jazz improv groups, then transferred the stage to Linde while students helped set the stage for the larger Lab Jazz and Jazz Ensemble.Lab Jazz performed two numbers: “Minor Mystery by Ellen Rowe and “Basieis Bless by Jim Snidero and arranged by Russell Schmidt. Although neither song was particularly memorable, Lab Jazz performed with a higher level of skill than in previous concerts.

Jazz Ensemble then took the stage after another brief stage change and proceeded to blow the audience away with its best performance of the year.

During the first tune Grace Kelly (a member of the guest group from Berklee and a 16-year-old saxophone prodigy) along with several other Berklee group members seemed to really enjoy the music, especially when the ensemble hit high points in the tune.

The ensemble’s next song, “Moon Over Cuba, had an interesting combination of sounds that made me think of sitting by a lake late at night. Some of the soloists, such as seniors Nate Blanks and Mir Henglin, performed particularly well.

Their last song, “Tribute, appropriately wrapped up South’s part of the jazz festival. The applause rang loud and long as the members of the Ensemble bowed. “It was nice for Newton South to be able to showcase its diverse Jazz program for the [Newton] community at the Attic, Labedz said. Later students remarked that they really enjoyed playing at the new venue even though it was a little overcrowded.

After South finished its performances, the guest group Yellowjackets performed a collection of songs written by members of the original Yellowjackets, Russell Rerrante and Bob Mintzer. The style of the music was reminiscent of old shows like Family Matters and The Cosby Show. The performance was not only fantastic, but also inspiring for students.

Overall the first Newton South Jazz Festival was a roaring success. Students played, listened to others, and became inspired. Hopefully, the Jazz Festival will be a tradition that continues.

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