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The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

SBCC big bands swing SOhO audience into Valentine’s day

The Channels Arts Pages | CRITICAL REVIEW
Kellen Romano serenades the crowd at SoHo Restaurant and Music Club with his arrangement of “It Don’t Mean A Thing If You Ain’t My Baby” on Feb. 13 in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Vacant bread baskets and half empty wine glasses scattered the tables as the buzzing conversations of the audience slowed to a low hum. 

As people fluttered in, I looked over the audience and noticed a sea of red. Perhaps red was a popular color this evening because Valentine’s day was right around the corner, or maybe jazz music just makes people feel festive.

A dark red scarf was draped over a woman’s neck, a red beret sat quaintly atop a tall man’s head and it seemed as though someone wearing red could be found at each table. 

On Monday, Feb. 13 at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club, City Colleges’ big bands led by music professors Eric Heidner, Ed Smith, and Jim Mooy put on an electric performance captivating the audience.

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Families and supporters angled their chairs towards the stage as three City College big bands, Lunch Break Big Band, Good Times Big Band and New World Jazz Ensemble, prepared to put on a show. 

A violet hue loomed over the small stage as the first performance by the Good Times Jazz Band began. The first song “That Old Black Magic” by Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, and Mike Tomaro came on and the rhythm immediately had me nodding along. It had a groovy tone with subtle hints of blues. 

Ethan Fossum, a second year drummer, held an important role in the song with his drumming laying down the vibrant undertones that made the tune stand out from the rest. Not only was he responsible for this part of the song, but he was responsible for playing in all three bands that night as well. 

This set prinkled in unique jazz fusion pieces and classic jazz pieces as the audience only grew larger stretching to the back of the cozy venue. 

The New World Jazz Ensemble took the stage as quiet audience members continued to eat their meals awaiting for the entertainment to resume. 

Perhaps the most captivating moment of the night was the solo that Kellen Romano performed in the song “It Don’t Mean A Thing If You Ain’t My Baby” by Billy Austin and Duke Ellington. His mature voice and the booming sounds of the saxophones echoed off the walls of the tiny venue and his crooning reminded me of the late Elvis Presley. Romano managed to get the majority audience to clap, and a warm energy could be felt from all angles. 

Lunch Break Big Band was the final band of the relaxing evening to take the stage. What caught my attention right away was the conductor Jim Mooy and the way in which his movements reminded me of dance, you could tell that this was his artistry.

The third piece in the set “Would You Like Fries With That?” commissioned by the Cal State Fullerton Summer Jazz Workshop had everybody dancing modestly in their seats. It had a glassy feel and the musicians worked tirelessly to be in sync which resulted in the band sounding like one instrument. 

The eyes of every single audience member were directed towards the stage as if we were all in a trance while the musicians on stage felt their expression and nodded their heads along to the sprightly song. 

My favorite piece of the night by far was the last one performed, “Pep Pep” by Jon Hatamiya had me smiling and left me with the urge to dance. The pianist and the guitarists meshed perfectly together and the bass solo performed by Julius Sherman made the piece even more catchy than it was. 

A night that reminded me of old movies and swing dancers had come to an end but I could feel that these tunes would be floating around in my mind for a while. The night left me with a satisfying feeling and the desire to hear more as Mooy closed out the night talking about their upcoming performance for the Dos Pueblos Jazz Festival on March 4. 

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