Featuring 60 students in a 90-minute program, Westfield High's jazz bands will present their winter concert, Saturday, Feb. 26, at 7:30 p.m. in the school auditorium. Tickets are $5 for adults and $2 for senior citizens and students.
PERFORMING under the direction of Charles Chaffin and Laura McBride will be the Westfield Jazz and the Jazz II band. Both bands are by audition, and Chaffin said his young musicians have made "an amazing amount of progress" this year, so the audience is in for a treat.
The Jazz II band will offer some swing tunes and a ballad/love song. And the Westfield Jazz will open with "Nice to Meet You," written by John Clayton. Featured soloists will be junior Ben Almen on alto saxophone, junior Kris Kusano on tenor sax and senior Eric Stalcup on trumpet.
"All Heart (A Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald)" was written by Duke Ellington and will highlight senior Thomas Yeo performing a flugelhorn solo. "It's a very complicated and involved piece," said Chaffin. "It's very expressive and takes a great deal of patience to play."
The Westfield Jazz will also wow the crowd with "Malaguena," written by Ernesto El Lecuona and arranged by Bill Holman. "It's the original arrangement played by the Stan Kenton band," said Chaffin. "It's a difficult piece to play because of its unique instrumentation."
That's because, in addition to the normal band instruments, this number also calls for a bass saxophone, four mellophones — a marching-band version of a French horn, with a rich, sonorous sound — and a tuba. Usually, 30 students perform in Westfield Jazz. But because of all the extra instruments needed for this tune, 40 students will be playing.
This is Chaffin's second year at the school, and Jazz II is a new band there. When he first came to Westfield, he had just 12 students in the Jazz I class. "But last spring, an overwhelming number of kids signed up to audition for Jazz I," he said. "I had so many good students that I didn't want to turn anyone away, so I created Jazz II."
And already, the musicians have made a name for themselves. Westfield Jazz headlined the December 2003 opening of the National Air and Space Museum Annex in Chantilly and returned again in December 2004 to perform at its one-year anniversary celebration.
On April 15, Westfield's jazz students will travel to New York's Lincoln Center. "While there, we'll take a couple master classes with members of the Lincoln Center jazz orchestra," said Chaffin. "It's a neat opportunity." The students will also tour two famous jazz clubs in New York City, Birdland and Blue Note.
FIRST, THOUGH, is the winter concert, and Chaffin says it'll be something special. "All the soloists will be doing improvisation — which is a very difficult technique, making a melody out of a couple chords," he explained. "And it can be scary, too, playing in front of the band without a music stand or sheet music."
But he says his students have "a great level of commitment, will and desire." This is Westfield's fourth jazz concert this year and, each time, audiences have become more and more responsive, so the upcoming show should continue on this track.
The young musicians have received tutoring from two JMU music professors, plus renowned jazz composer Alan Baylock. "The students have been working really hard," said Chaffin. "And the numbers in this show are really advanced and have matured the band greatly."