SMC jazz band pays tribute to legendary trumpeters with the help of featured player Clay Jenkins
The Santa Monica College Jazz Band performed this past Sunday at the Broad Stage Theater in Santa Monica in a performance entitled "Tribute to Legendary Trumpeters." The band played selections of jazz that highlighted history's famous jazz trumpeters, from Lee Morgan to Bobby Shew. Clay Jenkins, an experienced jazz performer who has played with SMC instructor Keith Fiddmont in the past, was featured as the lead trumpet soloist for the night, taking a break from his job as an instructor at The Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Jenkins has played with various prolific jazz groups, such as the legendary Count Basie Orchestra, of which he is still a charter member.
The band opened up with a lively rendition of "Blues Walk", a piece with a rousing conga drum rhythm which made several members of the audience bob their heads in tune with the beat. Before the performance, Fiddmont spoke of the legendary trumpet player Clifford Brown, who immortalized "Blues Walk". He explained how Brown lived in an era in which jazz musicians were notorious for their drug use. However, Brown made it a point to stay away from drugs and alcohol, a decision that shines through in his intellectually probing jazz pieces.
The band then moved on to an arrangement of the Lee Morgan classic "Sidewinder," by Mark Taylor. This up-tempo piece had an engaging bass line and a solid trumpet chorus which seemed to snowball throughout the piece, climaxing into a festival of jolly jazzy goodness.
Jenkins proved his worth in the next piece, "Blue", arranged by Gordon Brisker and made famous by Bobby Shew. This slow moving jazz tune was entrancing and beautiful, captivating in its attraction; its haunting trumpet feature carrying a melancholic weight.
"Every once in awhile we have a singer come up to us and ask to sing a piece, and we usually say no." said Fiddmont when introducing the classic Charles Spencer Chaplin piece "Smile," featuring vocalist Cynthia Beltran.
The next piece, "So What?" by Miles Davis, featured three soloists, including Ken Weiner on the tenor saxophone, and Jenkins on the trumpet blasting out a frantic and exciting solo reminiscent of the original by the great Miles Davis.
"I Remember Clifford," a tribute to jazz musician Clifford Brown by Benny Golson was up next. Fiddmont spoke of how this song was written mere hours after the death of Brown in a car accident by his colleague, trumpet player Benny Golson. This song featured another dreamy trumpet solo by Jenkins, sluggish and elegance in its remembrance.
The band closed with a rousing jazz reinterpretation of the classic gospel hymn "Down by the Riverside," featuring the trumpet performances of Craig Peterson, Eddie Liddie, Hagai Izraeli, Michael Crawford, John Peters, and Jim Watanabe. Fiddmont introduced the piece as an old favorite of his and Jenkins, who had both played together in the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.
Fiddmont was enthused with his band's performance. "I think that everyone played really well. Clay played beautifully." Fiddmont said the band had been practicing for six weeks, playing for three hours every Monday,
Eric Alvarez, who played drums for the opening tune "Blues Walk," described his experience in the jazz band as enjoyable, saying he felt that "everyone is very chill."
Ken Weiner, a tenor saxophonist who has been playing for 27 years, said he practices several days a week. He said his favorite song was "Down By the Riverside", and spoke highly of his experience with the Santa Monica College jazz band.