Big Band prepares for fall semester’s first concert

PLAY IN TIME (Courtesy of Nina Welch)

Courtney Hunter

The Saddleback Big Band held its first concert of the fall semester on Monday in the McKinney Theatre. Conducted by Director of Jazz Studies Joey Sellers, this outstanding ensemble focuses on great swinging standards.

The Saddleback Big Band is a standard size big band that explores wide stylistic territory. Most concerts feature a world premier combined with music of swinging historical importance.

The band consists of five saxophone players, who also double on different woodwinds, five trumpet and trombone players, a pianist, guitarist, bass player, drums and vocalist.

“This ensemble includes students of all ages and ethnicities. We have some of our applied music students involved, a math professor, a medical doctor, business men, young ‘professionals’ and a host of other wonderful people that comprise the big band,” said Sellers.

There is an abundance of variety in the type of music they perform, from ’30s and ’40s-era big band swing to improvised group excursions.   

Adryon Gross, 28, business administration, is the sole vocalist for the Big Band and has been a member for five semesters. She is also the only female in the band.

“I love singing, I have been singing since I was really young, about three or four years old” said Gross.

Her influences are Jill Scott, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, India Arie and she also listens to soul and rhythm and blues.

Collin Watson, 27, music, is one of the five sax players. Like Gross, he has been performing and playing since he was very young.

“I love playing (big band) type of music,” said Watson.

Several guest artists have performed with the Big Band over the years during Jazz Day, traditionally held in February. The list includes Frank Foster (Count Basie), Jane Ira Bloom (Pulitzer Winner), James Moody (Dizzy Gillespie legend), Wayne Bergeron (“The Incredibles”), Dave Liebman (Miles Davis Colleague), Bill Holman (Grammy-winning jazz composer) and many others.

“Since the Big Band is a community-oriented band at a very high level of performance, it would be unethical for us to compete against college-age students in competitions. The band performs frequently in the community for special civic engagements,” Sellers said. “The Jazz Lab Ensemble occasionally engages in those activities and does very well,” Sellers said.

Sellers said the college Big Band was one of the first ensembles established in the music department along with  the Wind Ensemble, orchestra, and choral ensembles. He said all of the ensembles are an important component of any music program.

The Big Band enjoys playing at its home base in the McKinney Theatre at Saddleback College.

They are also frequently the featured ensemble at jazz festivals and jazz venues throughout the Southland,” said Nina Welch, Fine Arts public information officer.

“We are all here to play creative music in the Big Band tradition,” Sellers said. “Between the Saddleback Big Band, the Jazz Lab Ensemble, and our eight combos, we are able to be very inclusive and still maintain a very high artistic standard. There are no other ensembles I know of that play the eclectic nature of literature that the Saddleback Big Band tackles.”

SAXOPHONE POWER (Courtesy of Nina Welsh)

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