Jazz café delightfully rich, thoroughly entertaining

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THEIR WAY –  Michelle Kaufman revives Frank Sinatra’s “September in the Rain.”  Photo by April Abarrondo

THEIR WAY – Michelle Kaufman revives Frank Sinatra’s “September in the Rain.”
Photo by April Abarrondo

Jazz Café is a showcase and fund raiser for the Vocal Jazz Ensemble’s trip to the Reno Jazz Festival.

Folks in Nevada better watch out, these people can sing.

Director Tracy Burklund-Becker opened the evening singing “Autumn Serenade” by Peter DeRose and was a tough act to follow. Staff Accompanist David Castel de Oro blistered a tenor sax solo during the song’s instrumental section that set the piece on fire.  They set the bar really high for the rest of the performers, but most of them soared over it.

Ehryk Jimenez’ peppy performance of Van Morrison’s “Moondance” played well against the slow and bluesy song that came before it. His voice took flight and a scat solo gave a lively jump to the concert.

Keanu Hill and William Robinson perform a Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. standard. Photo by April Abarrondo

Keanu Hill and William Robinson perform a Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. standard.
Photo by April Abarrondo

This roaring concert had a few stumbles that, but was mostly sublime.

Laura Carter’s performance of “Midnight Sun” by Lionel Hampton was less than satisfactory. She lacked a little air support and struggled to keep her intonation at times.

Another bump in the road was Mae Enginco’s performance of “Tell Me More” by Billie Holiday. Enginco’s singing was airy and needed more air support. Her stage presence was also lacking.

Jon-Anthoni Nieves rendition of Too Darn Hot” by Cole Porter gave the concert a jolt. His impressive vocals and charismatic stage presence drew the audience into his performance. He was a true showman, even removing his hat and jacket and tossing them in the audience.

After many strong solo acts, the full ensemble came on and cooled things down with “Cry Me a River” by Arthur Hamilton. Keanu Hill’s solo of the opening verse brought a new and distinct tonality yet to be experienced in the concert. Once the tempo picked up, the entire group really got into the song’s groove and lifted the audience. Camila Halm delivered a phenomenal solo with the rest of the ensemble supporting her.

As the night came to a close, Burklund-Becker stirred a holiday favorite into the mix. With a lively Latin feel, the Jazz Vocal Ensemble delivered a spectacular rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by Frank Loesser. Audience members were dragged into the holidays a little early but did not seem to mind. Ensemble members were full of jolly good cheer. With the vocals being very close to the original chart, the ensemble gave an original and lively song to enjoy as the night came to a close.

SWC Jazz Vocal Ensemble had a terrific showcase and  look to be in great shape for jazz festivals next semester. Reno, beware, Southwestern College is bringing some thunder.

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