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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Jazz bands showcase their final concert at the Big Band Blowout

The Channels Arts Pages | CRITICAL REVIEW
From left, Chris Fedderson and Gabriel Rangel duel over their solo during Lunch Break’s preformance of “Pep-Pep” on Monday, April 24 in Santa Barbara, Calif. The duo have often soloed together in past performances with City College.

As evening cast its shadow over the Garvin Theatre on April 24, the warm spring night signaled the nearing of summer and the end of the school semester. Inside the theater, three student jazz bands prepared to showcase their final performances for City College’s Big Band Blowout. 

Each individual, a vital member of a larger, soulful organism, breathed life into their instruments to fill the space of the theater, fossilizing the sounds of their final performance in the air around me. 

The feeling associated with a bittersweet goodbye overcame me as I watched the musicians engage in their final dance with their instruments, their sounds urging the audience to not forget them. 

As the Good Times Big Band assumed their positions, the audience fell quiet in sync with the dimming of the lights. The stillness of the space was soon interrupted by the uproar of instruments that let out an upbeat and playful tune, immediately captivating my attention and exciting me for the evening that was to unfold before me. 

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I’ve always found myself to be especially drawn to sounds that evoke a melancholic, emotional internal response, and as the band transitioned into the second arrangement by Sammy Nestico titled “Lover Man,” I soon found myself with that familiar feeling. 

A somber tone escaped the delicacy of Estella Ye’s fingers on the keys of the piano, shifting the energy of the room entirely. The soft sounds of the piano introduced the alto saxophone, which possessed a seductive tone, as if it were there to cast a love spell on the audience. A dire sense of yearning rang from the bell of the saxophone as Julio Longcomb serenaded the room.

Throughout the arrangement, moments of silence had me holding my breath as the tension stirred around me until an eruptive release of music allowed me to finally exhale. 

After Good Times closed out with a few final arrangements, Director Jim Mooy emerged from the stage’s wing signaling the beginning of the next band’s performance. 

“Let’s do this,” the director said quietly as he approached center stage to introduce the second big band Lunch Break.  

In one of the most memorable moments of the night, the band played an arrangement of “Pep Pep,” a stated favorite of theirs and one they never play the same way twice, according to Mooy. 

The saxophones set the tone for the dense, busy rhythm that prompted movement from the bodies in the audience dispersed throughout the sea of red seats. 

A collection of instruments joined together for a chaotic crowding of the surface, each instrument fighting to be heard until the trumpets burst through in a climatic outbreak to win the spotlight. The piano and the bass followed quickly behind to cool down the scene, grounding the band back on Earth at a steady tempo. 

Featured players Chris Fedderson and Gabriel Rangel stood from their seats taking center stage to duel it out in a harmonic battle, their weapons of choice: tenor saxophones. Watching this duo had me on the edge of my seat, swaying along as they battled it out. 

“Monday Madness,” City College’s all-pro big band, took the stage for the closing act of the night. 

In a bassy ballad titled “Pensive Miss” by Neil Hefti, Mike Muench’s trumpet was like ear candy, a perfect sound to please my aforementioned fascination with emotional, bluesy tunes.

The trumpet solo rang out like a longing for a lost lover, a fervent desire sheltered deep within the musician was extracted by his instrument and spit out into the crowd before him. 

I could feel the passion behind the playing course through my body, as I watched Muench’s face redden as he neared the end of his feature. 

As the evening’s end drew nearer in sight, Director Andrew Martinez introduced “To the top!” as being a familiar, favorite of theirs. 

“Just add water and it plays itself,” Martinez said jokingly before he sat back down, drew his lips near his saxophone, and joined the rest of the band in the final arrangement of the night, a tune with a quick and funky rhythm that had me wanting to dance beside them on stage. 

Throughout the night, I could see the passion behind the musicians in the moments of interaction between them on stage: a locking of eyes and a smile after their band mate just nailed a solo, a look of satisfaction on the face of a soloist after the last belt from their saxophone escaped into the air, a sense of collective consciousness created through a synchronized harmony of instruments. 

As someone with little knowledge in the realm of jazz, not only did I leave feeling inspired to deepen my understanding, but I left knowing that I had witnessed a moment of bittersweet closure for those on stage. Most people can relate to saying goodbye to the things they love, and through watching the musicians engage in this final performance at City College, I could feel the spirit behind the playing as they gave it their all for the last time.

Correction: April 28

A previous version of this story specified the wrong date in the photo captions. Originally they were written as April 23, but has been corrected to April 24. The Channels regrets this error. 

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