Jazz Night blows up Soho

Eryn Burkhart, Eryn Burkhart, and Eryn Burkhart

Cool cat-walking bass, big brassy horns, and kicking rhythms swung the Jazz Night at Soho on Monday, and rhythm and blues could find no better home.

Two combos and two big bands lit up the scene at the hip downtown venue, led by Dr. Charles Wood, Eric Heidner, and James Mooy of the City College Jazz Studies Program.

“This is what you call ‘fill in before the musicians get here,'” Wood said as he took up the mic and led the first band, “A” Combo, in a little groove improvisation session.

“Fa do yat ‘n doo yat ‘n dah bap-bah,” he sang, imitating blue saxophone sounds.

Right away, the “A” Combo blew listeners back in their seats, with jazz standard “Beautiful Love,” featuring intricate solos by Matt Boyle on alto sax, and Jackson Gardner on piano. The combo kept their cool, while they expertly breezed through tricky solos, with apparent ease.

Clean, electric guitar mixed smoothly with dirty, grungy saxophone and hip upright bass. Bright brass and the kick-kick of drums kept the energy buzzing.

The piano picked up the themes, throwing in twists and trills, slick runs up the keys, perfect octaves, and free rhythms.

The next tune, “Hamburger Helper,” featured Brian Alexander on guitar, and Jared Yee on saxophone.

Back arched, eyes shut, and brows raised, Yee blew a franticly crazy solo, getting just about every kind of sound out of that sax that was possible.

Next up was Eric Heidner’s “Good Times Band.” Some of the players stayed on from the combo, but the show switched gears into full-on big band style.

The horn section grew, the saxophones multiplied, and the bass switched over to electric. Heidner stood in front of the group and signaled changes, keeping the beat, driving and jiving.

The Dizzie Gillespie classic, “A Night in Tunisia,” was adapted to skip the traditional swing section, and instead played up the mambo, Latin beat. The players were having too much fun, and they drew everyone in the room into that “good times” feeling.

Groove, groove, groove-the rhythm kept heads bobbing, toes tapping, and bodies moving throughout the room.

The faculty took the stage next in their own combo. Smaller, but no less powerful, these seasoned players showed their students a thing or two about how to make a room shake.

Clark, who is also the Music Department Chair, led the combo in his own original called “OK, Fine,” with a “Raindrops on Roses” feel to it, alternating straight and syncopated rhythms.

Mooy expertly soloed on trumpet with the faculty, and then called his “Lunch Break Band” up to the stage. Another big band, this group brought down the house, wrapping up a phenomenal night of jazz with fat horn sound, walking bass, and more rousing solos from Yee on saxophone. The night just kept getting better.

“Song for Gabe” gave way to a free section in the middle of the arrangement, where Yee sequestered the spotlight yet again, and any doubts about this man’s talents were put to rest.

By the time he was done, the audience was breathless, although he had breath to spare, demonstrated by the way he seemed to clean up the stage with his sound.

Happy, triumphant, symphonic, warm and ecstatic, keep it going, never-ending, positively flowing, ecstasy growing, mounting richly, rolling and rolling, these City College bands showed their big-city style.

The rest of the semester offers more nights like these, at Soho as well as the Marjorie Luke Theatre, and they should not be missed by anyone with any interest in good music.