Jazz Café a little bit odd, but features strong performances

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Richard Amezola and the SWC Jazz Vocal Ensemble celebrates the songs of the silver screen during its concert “Jazz and the Movies.”

Gotta say it, the Jazz Vocal Ensemble can really jam.

“Jazz and the Movies,” directed by Tracy Burklund, was a crowd pleaser that had the power to create atmosphere and pull the listeners into the music. Bumpy and pitchy at times, it was overall an enjoyable evening at a bluesy lounge minus the choking cigarette smoke.

Performers sat on stage at round tables covered with black cloths and a vase with red roses. From there the film soundtracks rolled, including numbers from disparate films like “Looney Tunes: Back In Action,” “Cowboy and Señorita,” “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “La La Land.”

Some of the choices were odd, but most were compelling.

Vasti Hinojo captured the audience with “Round Midnight,” her delightfully raspy voice lending rawness to beauty. She was well prepared and confident, a testimony to Burkland’s training.

Nicole Arguelles sang “I Put a Spell on You,” featured in the sex-soaked movie “Fifty Shades of Grey.” She resisted the sleaze of the film for a more innocent rendition carried by her powerful voice.

Sara Martinez crooned the standard “Besame Mucho,” featured in the movie “Cowboy and the Señorita.” Her performance was sensual and mellow, with a low-burn passion that was irresistible. Her choice of a Spanish language number was appreciated by the diverse audience.

Keanu Hill turned in a joyful and entertaining take on the classic “Blue Skies.” It was a frivolous yet welcomed rendition of a song that invites comparisons. Hill stood his ground firmly.

Deborah Carreon tackled “The Man That Got Away” from “A Star Is Born.” She had rad green hair and a red-hot voice. Her song was very intimate and delightful, and, just maybe, a star was born.

Burklund took a turn at the mic with drama professor Ruff Yeager. Their performance of “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” was delightful and set high standard for the students to strive for.

MaryJo Abney sang “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” for her husband on their anniversary. Her song was very meaningful, though risked drowning in sentimentality.

Richard Amezola struggled with Elton John’s challenging “The Way You Look Tonight” from the movie “Father of the Bride.” Amezola has talent and potential,  but his nerves got the better of him this time out.

Pablo Gamino channeled Sinatra on “Come Fly With Me,” featured in the movie “Looney Tunes: Back In Action.” Gamino lit up the house with his glowing personality and fearlessness. He has a theatrical voice, though he may have over-emoted a bit on this chestnut swing number.

Members of the Jazz Vocal Ensemble have amazing voices, but made a few poor song choices. Talent, attack and a badass band helped to overpower some of the head scratcher selections, so the audience felt satisfied at evening’s end like a swingin’ night at Sardi’s.

Jazz Café had a funky menu, but the crew sure knew how to cook.

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