Favorites return and freshmen debut at Jazz Collective concert

By Amy Harris, Hawkeye Staff

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  • Freshmen Seth Meyers, Sage Jennings and Emma Jones watch as Matt Williams takes a piano solo during “Cousin Mary”.

    © HAWKEYE Amy Harris

  • Senior Ernesto Torres solos during “Twin Flame” by Marquis Hill. “I love Marquis!” said Torres. “He is actually a god. I’ve been transcribing so much Marquis lately. He had two shows at Centrum, each was three hours long, I went to both and did nothing else that day.”

    © HAWKEYE Amy Harris

  • From left to right: Jory Tindall, Marina Christopher and Steve Treseler play “There Will Never Be Another You”. Tindall and Christopher are both MTHS alumni, and teaching at MTHS was one of Treseler’s first jobs after music school. “I must’ve handed out hundreds of business cards, and Darin [Faul] was one of the only ones to get back to me,” he said with a chuckle.

    © HAWKEYE Amy Harris

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On the evening of August 29, students from the MTHS Jazz program came together for an intimate, hidden gem of a concert. The standard format, in which performers are segregated into their classes — Jazz 1, 2 and 3– was cast aside in favor of The Jazz Collective. Made up of a series of combos, it was meant to mimic the feel of jam sessions and gigs.

This served a dual purpose. The first was to ease students back into the swing of things after a summer where strict practice schedules were sometimes neglected. The second was to take advantage of the educational impact that more informal and independent music exploration can have. 

“As students are able to jam together and form their own groups without a director always picking their music and saying ‘play this, this way’, my peers and I have noticed that the students who play on their own are the ones that keep playing in college and beyond,” instructor and professional saxophonist Steve Treseler explained.

The world of gigs is vast and intimidating, so this night served as an introductory lesson in that regard, as well as the debut of many talented freshman band members.

Band director Darin Faul curated a group of some of the best of the Seattle jazz scene to offer wisdom and advice to his students. These coaches performed alongside the combos they led, and made for friendly and approachable conduits for information.

First to perform was the Blue Note Combo, led by pianist Matt Williams and filled out with the fresh faces of Ethan Weight on trumpet, Sage Jennings on trombone, Tyler Song on bari sax and Emma Jones and Seth Meyers on alto sax. Sophomore Seamus Whalen-Robinson also added trumpet. Their two sets consisted of songs by two of the greatest American composers:  “Summertime” by George Gershwin and “Cousin Mary” by John Coltrane. 

As students are able to jam together and form their own groups without a director always picking their music and saying ‘play this this way’, my peers and I have noticed that students who play on their own are the ones that keep playing in college and beyond,”

— Steve Treseler

“Summertime”’s smoldering and familiar melody shined with the embellishment of solos from each member, as well as the bluesy “Cousin Mary”, which came off of the same album as the legendary Giant Steps and is a combo classic.

Next was the Prestige Combo, featuring trombonist Freddy Gonzalez. His intense and innovative sound was complemented by freshmen Katrina Bushman on alto, Damaris Ibrahim on bass, Jessie Tong on piano, Josiah Lee on drums and Mark Tiersma on trumpet, as well as sophomore Nikolas Faulkner on guitar. Their set was hot, with the classic “Bags Groove” by Milt Jackson, and two more Coltrane tunes, “Blue Train” and “Mr. P.C.” Bushman, entering Jazz 2, glowed with potential as she laid down complex and thoughtful solos with a timbre that had just a touch of attack. The rest of the combo showed just as much possibility and personality.

Jory Tindall, MTHS alumnus, professional designer and prolific saxophonist, was the leader of the Verve Combo and the designer of this year’s unusually stylish t-shirts.

“I have a lot of summer camp t-shirts, and this is the first one that my wife has seen and said, ‘Wow, that one actually looks nice. We might not have to give that to Goodwill,’” Treseler quipped.

This group was entirely self-sufficient in its performance, and senior trombonist Preston Thrush took advantage of that freedom to immediately submit a correction to the program.

“So, our official name is not the Verve Combo, I just want to be clear, we are the ‘Dope Licks’ Combo,” he said before counting off for their first song, “Take the A Train”, perhaps one of the most famous songs in the jazz repertoire, penned by Duke Ellington’s writer Billy Strayhorn.

Thrush, as well as senior Ethan Moore on trumpet, senior Josh Setala on drums, junior Andrew Vinther on bass, freshman Ryan Acheson on bari sax, junior Johnny Kim on alto,  freshman Ian Sjoholm on bass trombone and freshman Sophia Susanto on piano, performed a worthy interpretation of the standard, as well as “Blue Bossa” by Kenny Dorham and “Sidewinder” by Lee Morgan.  A standout was Acheson’s laid back, yet soaring baritone solos on “Blue Bossa” and “Sidewinder”, as well as bassist Vinther, who just returned from a summer-long classical music intensive at the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, and provided “Take the A Train” with a solo that showed some classical influence, incredible dexterity and was graced with the ethereal addition of harmonic accents.

The Impulse Combo, led by MTHS alumna, bassist and vocalist Marina Christopher, featured junior Natalie Song on piano, senior Sol Plourd and junior Alex Companario on trumpet, senior Owen Moreland on alto sax, sophomore Emmalee Dallos and junior Jonas Rivera on tenor sax, junior Sophie Stelmack on trombone and freshman Nate Klaussen and Gabriel Esprita on the drums.

Their songs were suave and sweeping: “Lady Bird” by Tadd Dameron, “Recorda-me” by Joe Henderson and “Sack O’ Woe” by Cannonball Adderly. Slick solos from all were sparkling accents to these beautifully evocative choices. “Lady Bird” sounds ahead of its time for a song written in 1939, and like all the songs performed by this combo, surprisingly lush for a small group. Both Moreland and Dallos laid down deft solos. “Recorda-me” is a 60’s bossa which radiates class and style, and pianist Song simply sparkled on the keys. “Sack O’ Woe” is a funky sort of church shuffle with compelling swing sections interspersed every few bars. It felt almost criminal not to dance to this one.

Next up was the Concord ensemble, a group of more experienced students meant as a sort of exhibition of the wonderful things that can happen when one is dedicated to consistent improvement and practice. Drummer Setala, bassist Vinther, pianist Song, senior trumpeter Ernesto Torres and senior saxophonist Caden Hargrave began with “Someday My Prince Will Come”, a song originally written for Disney’s Snow White but popularized as a jazz standard by Dave Brubeck on his album Dave Digs Disney. 

“‘Someday My Prince Will Come’…is a song many of you either have or will play at jam sessions,” explained Setala.

Torres’ wistful and lyrical feature on the tune was romantic and playful in all the right ways. His soloing capability has grown immensely over his time at MTHS, and the same goes for many of the others there that night. Setala’s drumwork was tight and full, and Hargrave’s performance was stunning as usual. Song again demonstrates her ear for enhancement, with clever attention and manipulation of the theme. 

Their next song was a piece by trumpeter Marquis Hill, whom the group met in Port Townsend during the Centrum Jazz Festival. Called “Twin Flame”, Hargrave and Torres were perfectly synchronous on the contemporary and spacy chart. The Concord Combo demonstrates the incredible chemistry that a group develops, and their intuitive anticipation for each other’s actions is fascinating to watch.

The final combo of the night was the Faculty band, which consisted of all of the group leaders on their respective instruments along with Setala on the drums. They played the standard, “There Will Never Be Another You”, and their performance was a masterclass on how to bend convention. Their adaptiveness–from classic to contemporary, primal to esoteric–truly represented the versatility demanded of professional musicians.

To finish the night, the entire Jazz Collective was brought onstage to perform a final piece as a “Monster Band”. “Second Line” by Joe Avery is a boisterous, bombastic and rowdy New Orleans-style piece that is instantly familiar. It was a little chaotic, but undoubtedly a lot of fun. The song felt like joy distilled, and left the room ringing with optimism–perhaps for the year ahead, or perhaps for the cookie-and-drink reception outside the theater.

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