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Grammy-nominated saxophonist performs alongside SBCC bands

Claire Geriak
Karl Hunter begins his solo during his set with the Lunch Break Big Band on March 3 at the Dos Pueblos Jazz Festival in Goleta, Calif. Hunter sat in for a single rehearsal with the college ensemble to prepare for the festival.

Celebrating its 54th anniversary, the Dos Pueblos High School Instrumental Program proudly hosted their Jazz Festival, “Jazz in Paradise,” starting at 7 p.m. on March 4 in the state-of-the-art Elings Performing Arts Center

This festival represents student musicians who share a love for jazz. The evening exhibited performances from Dos Pueblos High School Big Band and City College’s Lunch Break Jazz Band.

Karl Hunter gets into the groove during his guest appearance at the Dos Pueblos Jazz Festival on March. 2 in Santa Barbara, Calif. The Dos Pueblos alumnus sat in with two student bands at the festival, preforming both jazz standards and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy originals, Hunter’s own band with six other band mates. (Claire Geriak)

For this year’s special guest, acclaimed saxophonist, and Master Clinician Karl Hunter showcased his talents for the night. Best known for being the featured saxophone soloist with the contemporary swing band, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

He’s performed alongside icons such as Stevie Wonder and Little Richards with the multi-platinum-selling band, collaborating with over 35 U.S. orchestras in the past 28 years.

Hunter has become an inspiration for local students, being a Dos Pueblos and City College alum himself. 

“We are very lucky to have Karl as our special guest this year,” Instrumental Music Director Aimee Ware said. “Many of the members of this band absolutely love Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.”

Starting the night off with the Dos Pueblos High School Big Band, the audience welcomed each set with applause. Performing arrangements, “Tweet fatigue,” “In a Sentimental Mood,” “Big Time Operator” and “Cold Duck Time.”  

An impressive group of judges utilized their expertise for the event, including, Dr. Chuck Wood; Head Judge, Ron McCarley, Lito Hernandez, Andrew Martinez, James Mooy, Brian Peter, and Eric Heidner. In the spirit of friendly competition, these judges provided professional assessments for the performances. 

Moving on to the Lunch Break Jazz Band, Dos Pueblos alum and Director Andrew Martinez greeted the audience. This band is considered to be one of the finest jazz ensembles in the state, winning continuous awards throughout the nation. Tonight they performed arrangements, “The Goombay Smash,” “Jitters,” “Still in Love with You,” “Minnie the Moocher” and “5-10-15 Times.”

Pianist for the Lunch Break Jazz Band Cainan Birch reflects on his experience.

Hayden Lo lays down the groove at the Dos Pueblos Jazz Festival on March. 2 in Goleta, Calif. Lo preformed with the Lunch Break Big Band and grammy-nominated saxophonist Karl Hunter. (Claire Geriak)

“We had a lot of time to practice, I was feeling pretty comfortable on stage, especially since Martinez is such a motivating conductor,” Birch said. “The crowd is the best part for me because you get inspiration. When you’re just rehearsing it’s easy to fall flat. When you’re right there with the crowd there’s feedback, making my solos easier.” 

The ending set for this year’s Jazz Fest was “5-10-15 Times,” an original from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, inspiring a standing ovation. Karl Hunter and proud band members thanked a howling audience as they walked off stage. 

“I went to a Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Concert when I was eleven, and they told me if I kept working on my piano I would be great someday,” said Birch. “And then Karl comes to City College and I get to perform with him, I’m in awe of how that happened.” 

Dos Pueblos High School and City College’s music programs have made events like this possible for the last five decades. Encouraging young musicians to pursue their talents with the help of skilled professors and supportive mentors.

Correction: March 20, 2024
A previous version of this story used the word “preform” in its headline. The word “perform” was the intended word.   

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