Jazz jams downtown

Cecily Trowbridge and Cecily Trowbridge

As the first group of musicians from City College finishes their performance at El Paseo Restaurant in downtown Santa Barbara, it is easy to gauge the general consensus of the full house, which includes a full range of age groups.

The City College Jazz Improvisation class performing has been shuffled into four distinct combinations of groups that serve as mini-bands, and are roughly comprised of one or two guitar players, a drummer, pianist, saxophone player, trumpet player and singer. Every student that auditions for the class is placed into a group where they practice independently often and rehearse as a group sporadically.

“I’m seriously impressed,” says City College photography major Elyse Mitchell, who is attending to see her friends play. “I think it’s great that we have such talent at the college.”

The groups are made up primarily of males; as a matter of fact, there are only three female musicians, a saxophonist, pianist and drummer. The groups are all playing pieces from “The Real Book,” which is a collection of standard jazz tunes that can also be characterized as classic.

“Jazz is its own language, if you can dig on that, you know?” Zeal Levin, a guitar player from the second Combo, said.

Ben Litwicki, a saxophone player from Arizona and a fellow member of the second Combo, also plays in a band separate from his City College group, which is currently unnamed.

“The only mistake was that my instrument is a piece of crap and kept squeaking, but it gets the job done,” Litwicki said.

As the Combo’s rotate, it becomes apparent that the most talented musicians have been saved for last. It is only fourth Combo that is deemed “incredibly talented” and “the cream of the crop” by Chuck Wood, an emeritus professor of jazz studies, former chair of the City College Music Department and current director of the Jazz Jam taking place.

The musicians comprising this group also play off of each other’s rhythm, producing a melodious and pleasant wave not blatantly apparent throughout any of the other groups’ performances.

Paul Jakubowski, managing partner of El Paseo, is very proud that his restaurant is one where City College students are able to play.

“It’s a great opportunity for students to get to play here,” Jakubowski said. “It gives them somewhere to play other than at the school, and it’s a historical landmark.”

The next City College student Jazz Jam will be held in May.