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Jazz Ensembles to Compete in ‘Next Generation Festival’

Published: March 16, 2009

CSULB Concert Jazz Orchestra and its vocal jazz chorus Pacific Standard Time (PST) have been selected to compete April 3-5 at the fifth annual “Next Generation Festival.” The event is hosted each year by the Monterey Jazz Festival to showcase the best emerging talent in jazz.

“We all feel honored to be invited to perform at the Next Generation Festival because all the groups are pre-selected finalists who perform at a very proficient level,” said CSULB Director of Jazz Studies Jeff Jarvis. “In the past, finalists have come from as far away as the Prague Conservatory in the Czech Republic. Since I came to CSULB in the fall of 2005, I’ve been thrilled about what our students have accomplished.”

The Next Generation Festival attracts performers from some of the most prestigious educational programs in the country and represents the largest gathering of young jazz talent in the region, outside of the Monterey Jazz Festival itself. Artist-in-residence at the festival this year will be Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, as well as renowned alto saxophonist Sherman Irby, trumpeter Sean Jones and saxophonist Joe Temperley.

Both CSULB groups will be on tour prior to the festival, starting at the Marin County School of the Arts just north of San Francisco, then traveling to the San Jose before heading to Monterey where they will perform at local venues before the festival.

Competing against the Concert Jazz Orchesta this year are ensembles from Sacramento State University, Azusa Pacific, USC, the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and the University of the Pacific.

Under the baton of Professor Christine Guter, who joined CSULB in 2002, PST will also compete against Sacramento State in the College Vocal Ensemble Division, as well as Mount San Antonio College, Cuesta College, DeAnza College and Mt. Hood Community College.

This is first year the Next Generation Festival offered a vocal jazz division, enabling PST to apply and be chosen to compete. PST has a very active schedule and performs at jazz festivals, educational conferences and many other public and private events. According to Guter, the quality of PST’s performances attracts the attention of professional jazz educators, students and enthusiasts of all ages. The program has drawn students from all over the country to receive their education at CSULB.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be one of only six groups from around the country that were selected to perform in the festival. We are certainly in good company,” said Guter. “The other groups are top-notch and among the nation’s finest. We are certainly one of the front-runners of the groups invited to perform.”

Hoping for a repeat performance, the Concert Jazz Orchestra took first place in 2007 in the festival’s college division. As the top ensemble, they received a trophy, a check for $2,000 and an invitation to perform on the main stage of the Monterey Jazz Festival, an event and organization that has led the world in jazz education since 1958. If either CSULB group garners a first-place win this year, they will again be invited to perform during the Monterey Jazz Festival this September.

According to Jarvis, the orchestra has attracted excellent musicians in recent years and an ample amount of talent this year, particularly in an “abundance of soloists.” He said most collegiate jazz ensembles feature three or four quality soloists. CSULB will have eight performing during its 20-minute program in Monterey and another five who are “very good improvisers.”

Saxophone


The orchestra’s featured performers at the festival are Randy Drake (drums), Steve Wade (trumpet), Chase Baird (tenor sax) and Will Brahm (guitar), Carlos Ordiano (piano), Dan Kaneyuki (alto sax) and Ermuel Navarro (trombone).

Jarvis said choosing the right pieces for the festival requires a considerable effort to develop a challenging and stylistically diverse program that will effectively showcase the band and its soloists. He believes that this year the performance will again represent the kind of practical and hands-on instruction distinctive of CSULB’s Music Department.

“Each performance at the festival is limited to 20 minutes, which gives us time for three pieces. We will open with a chart of mine called ‘Free Fall,’ a progressive piece incorporating frequent time signature changes and an intricate section featuring the saxophones,” he said. “Our second piece, ‘Great Northern Express,’ is a Fred Sturm original that portrays a train that used to run from Northern Michigan to Los Angeles. This work also employs frequent meter changes and the drummer uses brushes to emulate the sound of a locomotive. We’ll end with a very demanding Bill Fulton arrangement of the jazz classic ‘Green Dolphin Street.’”

PST singers are Ann Pedersen, Christina Wilson, Alexandra Domingo, Maria Dowell, Andrea Calderwood, Gregorio Taniguchi, Simon Barrad, Alex Stephens, Virgil Rosales, Kevin Kao and Sean Fitzpatrick. Their band consists of Anthony Lopez (piano), Nicole van der Paardt (bass), Andre Copher (drums).

During the festival, PST will perform “The Kicker,” by Joe Henderson (arranged by Christine Guter), “Strollin’,” by Horace Silver (arranged by Paris Rutherford), “Michelle,” by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (arranged by Gene Puerling), and “Funquiado” (written and arranged by Clare Fischer).

“I’m not a strong believer in competition in music,” Guter added. “We perform to share our passion and love for what we do and to serve the music. Our main goal is to be vessels for this great music and touch our audience and the other musicians there in hopes to inspire, motivate, uplift and create great beauty at the highest level.”

Jarvis, too, knows the importance of balancing music and competition, but is very proud of what the orchestra has done in Monterey in the past and what it means to his students and the university.

“I always stress the importance of keeping a balanced perspective about competition versus learning. The Concert Jazz Orchestra that won the festival in 2007 was a strong group,” said Jarvis. “But last year’s orchestra was stronger yet. They were awarded third place behind Cal State Northridge and the University of Michigan. I later discovered that the final scores for all three big bands were within six-tenths of a point. Needless to say, we came home feeling a tremendous sense of pride for a job well done.

“At the end of the day, the orchestra and I feel our true measure of success comes down to one thing—whether we did the best job possible,” Jarvis added. “I believe the field is so strong that any one of us could return home with the top award this year.”