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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’s engaging Big Bands blow the audience away during first fall show

The Channels Arts Pages | CRITICAL REVIEW
Bethany Davenport
The Good Times Big Band preform at SoHo restaurant and Bar in Santa Barbara, Calif. The preformance was on Oct 16, 2023 and also featured The New World Jazz Combo and Lunch Break Big Band.

There is a stillness about Monday nights on State street, when the start of mundane weekly routines consume people as they drift off to sleep early in preparation. The deserted sidewalks lined empty restaurants and boutiques on Oct. 16 as the temperature dropped and a chilling wind brushed against my skin. Upon entering the warm ambiance of the SOhO Restaurant & Music Club, however, the stress of early classes and midterm exams escaped me. Immediately, I was inclined to linger. 

The music club welcomed City College’s three Big Bands to perform a variety of jazz songs from 7-9:30 p.m. The space that bordered the stage was littered with full tables and no seats to spare, so I headed to the bar and lounge area in the connecting room. Framed photos of musicians lined the walls and promotional flyers hung on the door. The low lighting was just low enough to navigate the packed crowd while simultaneously drawing attention to the stage performances at the front of the building.

Chris Fedderson plays the saxaphone during his solo at City College Big Band Jazz preformance at SOhO restaurant and bar on Oct 16, 2023 in Santa Barbara, Calif. Fedderson said “I’ve been playing the saxaphone seriously for about seven years.” (Bethany Davenport)

The Monday Madness Big Band, directed by saxophonist Andrew Martinez, greeted guests with their variety of musical compositions. Latin jazz covers encouraged the crowd to dance, some guests taking to the empty space in front of the bar to do so, allowing it to operate as a dance floor. Most, however, used the area to stand back and watch the stage come to life. 

An arrangement of afro-cuban jazz followed, integrating different cultures into their performance. Swing music lightened the mood, and onlookers became more engaged with the show.

The Good Times Big Band wasted no time in approaching the stage next in order to maintain the attention of the audience. Things slowed things down when they focused more on wind instruments and piano. Their beautiful jazz performances highlighted the intricate delicacy of being a jazz musician, impressing audience members with their professional technique.

Dominick Lawerence plays guitar at City Colleges Big Band Jazz preformance on Oct 16, 2023. “I think tonight went a little better than expected.” Lawerence said after the preformance at SOhO restaurant and Bar in Santa Barbara, Calif. (Bethany Davenport)

Conducted by Anthony Ybarra, The Lunch Break Big Band closed the evening off with a strong finale. Electric guitars, trumpets, and saxophones overflowed the stage. Each instrument worked in perfect harmony with one another, bringing the energy back up yet again with upbeat tempos. The audience was completely captivated and was eager to hear each song that came next. This band highlighted many of its members by allotting a fair amount of time to solos, which the crowd happily cheered on. The music was passionate and bright, and the liveliness of the atmosphere was undeniable.

I observed in amazement throughout the night as every talented performer contributed to the beautiful music that filled the room. As someone who does not identify as a regular jazz listener, attending this event changed my entire perspective on the genre. The broad genre takes on an abundance of different configurations, and the pure talent it takes for each musician to not only learn specific songs but also have the ability to improvise is extremely admirable and makes each performance all the more exciting to watch.

I was so engaged with the show that when it came to a close, it felt like an early ending. I didn’t realize that I had been sitting on my barstool for nearly three hours.

City College Big Band Jazz performance packs SOhO restaurant and bar on Oct 16, 2023. Performances by The Good Times Big Band, The New World Jazz Combo and Lunch Break Big Band. (Bethany Davenport)

The music club was hidden atop a flight of stairs and a hallway, despite being located on bustling State Street. It felt exclusive and intimate – as though I had just discovered an entirely new community in the shadows of Santa Barbara. 

City College’s Monday Madness Jazz Orchestra performs again at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club on Nov. 6 from 7-9 p.m., with doors opening at 6 p.m. General Admission costs $15, and tickets can be purchased online or at the door. 

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