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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

City College’s jazz ensembles strive for originality on the SOhO stage

As the spring semester rapidly comes to an end, the SOhO Restaurant & Music Club welcomed back City College’s jazz ensembles for a final performance. Doors opened promptly at 7 p.m. on May 6 for their Jazz Jam event. 

Being a jazz lover, I was looking forward to seeing how these performances would differ from others. The dimly lit venue hosted a full crowd with no seats to spare, with whispers of anticipation exchanged over wine and dinner. 

Over the spring semester, four jazz groups of varying levels practiced their skills for public performances, including this one. The first is the beginner ensemble, The Moreno Group. 

Brass instruments reflected vibrant spotlights as performers readied themselves. Director Rob Moreno eagerly introduced the band members. With a swift wave of his hand, synchronized melodies filled the room. 

As I glanced around, the atmosphere buzzed with conversation, cultivating a feeling of causality that I hadn’t seen from an event like this before. Harmonious applause acknowledged the impressively euphonious group. 

Soulful saxophone, accompanied by low-tempo drums and a delicate bass, serenaded the room. Director of The New World Jazz Ensemble, Ed Smith, alluded to the fact that the members had only begun learning jazz literature and their accompanying instruments just a couple of months prior. 

The Moreno Group’s performance ended almost as quickly as it started, from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., scheduling only allowing roughly 30 minutes for each group. 

With only a $15 cover charge, I’ve always appreciated how SOhO makes the best of its environment. Its attentive servers and diverse menu keep an audience occupied during quick ensemble transitions. 

The intermediate combo, The Lowi Group, was welcomed to the stage by a feverish audience, eager to admire the next set of performers. 

I found myself attentive to my surroundings, consciously scanning the crowd in the hopes of noticing which individuals had family or friends on stage. My curiosity was satiated as director Ralph Lowi gestured for the beginning notes. 

Front-row crowd members howled words of encouragement to specific performers, who soon teemed with appreciation. Unique scatting caught my attention as the vocalist beamed with confidence, a certain musical skill I’ve always found impressive. 

Eloquent ballads moved the audience, encouraging almost continuous applause. Being more familiar with fusion or swing jazz melodies, the slow lento movements intrigued me. 

Transitioning swiftly to the first advanced-level ensemble, the Martinez Group took the stage. 

Director Andrew Martinez energetically directed the band, signaling every note and melody with simple hand gestures and acknowledging each individual performer and their designated instruments. 

Vocalist Alina Reitz hushed the audience, profoundly blending in with the leisurely instruments and melodic flute solos. I’ve always admired performers for their confidence; the ability to vulnerably lend yourself to the music is something worth applauding. 

Scatting accompanied smooth guitar riffs as the group closed their performance with a hard-bop jazz ballad. 

The night ended with the second advanced-level combo, The New World Jazz Ensemble. A familiar face caught my eye as pianist Cainan Birchin melodically performed alongside the group.  

“The goal is to bring original material into the group,” Smith said. “Because that’s where the music business is now, you really have to be able to do it all.” 

The originality was prevalent amongst their playing, showcasing seasoned performers who were accustomed to performing. 

Smith floated around the stage, directing where needed but seemingly enjoying the music with the audience. 

A quicker tempo beat reignited the ambiance, welcoming energy back into the serenaded room. Synchronized instruments and unique arrangements commenced the final rounds of applause, which erupted throughout the room as the group ended their last notes. 

City College’s jazz ensembles will begin performing again during the fall semester. These performances will showcase talented students who are learning or improving their musical passion.

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