The CSUN Jazz “A” Band played its last show of the semester for more than 100 enthusiastic audience members Thursday at the Plaza del Sol Performance Hall.
The band started the show sounding mellow with the horn section harmonizing big band style, but by the time they got to the individual improvised solos, they sounded anything but mellow.
Senior Carter Wallace ripped through a monster stand-up bass solo during Charlie Parker’s “Bloomdido,” providing some animated facial expressions and eliciting scattered screams from some of the audience.
Lead saxophonist Justin Janer blazed through his solos on his alto with mind-numbing speed, leaving the crowd in awe during “Minor Booze.” Later, Band Director Matt Harris pretended to fan the flames off Janer, alluding to the speed of his playing.
Ken Moran balanced things out with more smooth, laid-back solos on his tenor saxophone.
The show consisted of songs from jazz artists such as Thad Jones, Willie Maiden and Clifford Brown. Lead trombonist Aya Toyoshima arranged Brown’s “The Blues Walk” herself, which drew cheers of “Aya, Aya” from a few in the crowd.
“I’m really impressed tonight,” said Dennis O’Flaherty, 74, during intermission. He has been coming to the CSUN jazz shows for 15 or 20 years.
During “The Blues Walk,” the band tried something new by bringing creative improvisational dancer Jessica Hoffman on stage to perform. Her speedy tap dancing and 360-degree twists in the air wowed audience and band members alike.
Harris joked that they probably would have to exclude the dancing from future shows after the angry e-mails he was likely to receive, a comment that received groans from the audience.
“No. I liked it,” he said, as if he was trying to dig himself out of a hole.
But Harris did get some laughs out of the crowd as he gave away the band’s new CD, “Rain Song,” to people with the correct answers to trivia questions about CSUN President Jolene Koester, who was in attendance.
During intermission, Koester said of the band, “They’re just terrific. Close your eyes and you’re anywhere.”
The band made an impression on some of the younger audience members as well.
“I think I found a new passion, possibly,” said 16-year-old drummer Ian Hopps, who is a sophomore at St. Genevieve High School in Panorama City. “I’ll be in a jazz band soon.”
On June 19, the CSUN Jazz “A” Band will embark on its first Summer European Tour ’07, playing concerts at universities in Urbach and Freiburg, Germany, as well as shows in Salzburg and Innsbruck, Austria.