Studio Jazz Ensemble infuses intricate musical arrangements

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The Studio Jazz Ensemble, one of three jazz bands in the Music Department, gave a rousing and raucous performance before a large audience that proved that while they may be the second-level jazz band, they are not second fiddle.

In his opening remarks Monday night before the concert audience, director Gary Pratt told the sold-out audience in the Music Recital Hall that the band whose talents were about to be displayed was not the first-level sounding jazz band in the department.

“This is the second band,” Pratt said, who reassured the audience that the ensemble was capable of playing a higher level of music.

“We are going to play a lot of stuff tonight that a second band ordinarily does not play,” Pratt said.

Moments later the 20-piece ensemble, known as the “B Band” in the Music Department, tore into classic arrangements from jazz greats, like Bill Holman, Thad Jones, Ray Brow and Don Menza with ease.

The ensemble infused an intricate arrangement to the Fred Sturm hit “Take it All” with another jazz classic “All of Me” as a backdrop.

In a moment of theatrics, Pratt pulled a sight-read on the group – meaning to take a piece of unfamiliar music, read it, and then play it on the spot before a live audience.

The Matt Harris tune “Whose the Bossa?” was not on the program, and by the reaction of the members of the ensemble it was not one they had rehearsed.

Pratt’s version of a musical parlor trick produced the strongest performance of the night. Each musician played with a sense of inspiration, and channeled their nervous energy to produce a powerful performance.

“Sometimes as professional musicians we have to be able to do that,” Pratt said, regarding why he felt it important to add the sight-read to the concert.

Aya Toyoshima, a trombone player in the band, who admitted she could become “distracted by certain things,” said the sight-read helped her stay focused.

“It made me concentrate harder,” said Toyoshima, junior jazz studies major.

The effort put in by the artists to accurately convey the mood of the music was not wasted on those in attendance.

David Gonzalez, junior mechanical engineering major, attends at least one jazz concert per semester and enjoys the atmosphere of the event.

“I like the mood and tempo of the music. It’s pretty upbeat,” Gonzalez said. “I come to get involved in school, relax, and listen to a little music,” Gonzalez said.

Several members of the audience said they heard about the show at the last minute, bought a ticket, and were surprised by the ensemble’s performance.

Barry Goblin, a CSUN alumnus who has a masters degree in music from the New England Conservatory and currently teaches woodwind instruments in Palos Verde, said that the ensemble’s performance was the best show he has seen since he graduated in 2003.

“They sounded great, very solid, very tight,” said Golbin, who gave his fiance a tour of the campus when they decided to stay for the show.

Darren Dickerson can be reached at ane@sundial.csun.edu.