Student Jazz group warms up local venue by second half

The Channels Art Pages | STAFF REVIEW


City College’s New World Jazz Ensemble had a rocky start, but turned their show around at SoHo this week.

The combo, led by director Tony Ybarra, played a mix of jazz standards and modern jazz with heavy concentration on improvisation. Each musician had their time to impress the audience of parents, music appreciation students and fellow musicians that filled the room comfortably.

Tickets were $10, and a reserved spot required at least $15 spent on a meal.

Their performance picked up by the second set at SoHo last night, even with its difficult acoustical setup.

“Caravan,” an arrangement by Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol, was one of the highlights of the performance. A great solo into the main course by drummer Westin Byerly set the pace and mood for the entire piece, exciting the other the tenor sax, piano, and bass solos. The rhythm section played in the pocket, and enriched each improvisor’s unique tone, melody and phrasing.

An arrangement by Ybarra of “Moanin’” by Bobby Timmons showcased the band’s singer, Daun Jeon, in the realm of blues, and left me wanting to hear more of him again. The horns’ articulation was tight and together, and the section was ever mindful of their well-toned singer on stage, creating a nice balance.

“Moanin’” allowed for the band to show how they could play within a style of a song as well. The first set of music, which contained mostly jazz standards such as “Dolphin Dance” and “My Funny Valentine,” felt unchanging in style and tone. It left me wanting a bit more from the band as a whole dynamically and improvisationally.

The rhythm section improvised extraordinarily well throughout the performance, with melodies that kept you on your feet. The horn section had relatively mellow improvisation with simple phrasing. They showcased their tone more than anything else.

Each soloist did extraordinarily well in a few songs when they played outside the traditional chord progressions, and within the pocket. More complex melodies and phrasing was revealed to me as the performance progressed, and left me impressed at times.

The sound setup at SoHo interferes with the quality of music the band puts out. The stage sits a good 4 feet off the ground, causing much of the sound to pass over the heads of dining customers. At times, some players were too loud on speakers, ruining the balance and articulation the band does truly have. For many songs, I had difficulty hearing the trumpet.

All in all, I would recommend seeing the “New World Jazz Ensemble” if you’re willing to spend about $25 at SoHo. If you can manage to find them on a better stage, their decent performance could be great, but most likely a menu won’t be provided.

If you would like to stay up to date with their performances, checkout their Facebook page.