Halloween jazz cafe blended a special brew of haunting tunes

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A SPOOKY ENSEMBLE - Alma Nunez singing the bewitching classic "Old Devil Moon" at Halloween Jazz Cafe. PHOTO BY Sergio Esparza

A SPOOKY ENSEMBLE – Alma Nunez singing the bewitching classic “Old Devil Moon” at Halloween Jazz Cafe.
PHOTO BY Sergio Esparza

Cold was the wind, dark was the night of the Halloween Jazz Café. Dressed in their darkest black, drizzled with red, the SWC Jazz Vocal Ensemble came out from their haunts to fire warmth and light.

A score of singers turned tricky acapella number “Chili con Carne” into a treat. Each singer carried a different part like a delicately layered symphony sans instruments.

Seven ladies brought out the beast during “I’m in Love With a Monster” as the other performers looked on, seated café style with blood red flowers spiking each table. Then came the men, nine altogether, spinning “Theme from Spiderman” and snaring the audience in their web.

Good as these groups were, the solo performances were even better. A line of talented singers allowed their voices to soar like phantoms in the dark sky.

Overcoming a shaky start, charismatic Eduardo Barrientos resurrected Van Morrison’s classic “Moondance” with the flair of a natural showman. He grabbed audience members with sultry moves that summoned the ghost of Elvis and made Ed Sullivan spin in his grave.

Mario Martinez steamed up a witch’s brew of “Black Coffee” with a bluesy voice strongest when he let it growl like an old singer who drinks the pain away.

MaryJo Abney counted in “Moonlight” and her sequin dress shimmered blue in the lights as she swayed like a creaky fence on a windy Halloween night. Her performance was a highlight, her sweet voice drifting over a breezy piano and a joyously frantic bass solo.

“Black Magic Woman” was a nice change of pace as Mario Barragan and Marco Zuno powered up electric guitars and stirred a few drops of Hendrix into the elixir.

Andrew King, tall as Dracula, dressed in a red vest and flamboyantly patterned jacket, sang with a voice that sounded like it was rolling along a lazy river. His bass voice had an Earthly richness that gave firm footing on a night of higher voices launching skyward.

Director Tracy Burklund saved the best for last — herself. She cleared the underworld with a spirited performance of “Devil May Care,” demonstrating the kind of masterful talent that her students aspire to and SWC audiences have come to expect from its national-caliber vocal ensembles. SWC performing arts groups continue to serve as the public face of the college. On this night of mischief and spookiness, the Jazz Vocal Ensemble hit all the right notes.

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