Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pottsgrove Jazz Fest a Bounty of Talent and Cool Tunes

Photo by Evan Brandt

Pottsgrove High School Band Director Victor Holladay, right, congratulates representatives of the 10 bands, and the winning soloists, on their awards at the end of the Jazz Fest.

Pottsgrove High School hosted a 10-school Jazz Fest Saturday night and the Richard J. Radel Auditorium was swinging.

The bands in order of appearance were Pottsgrove Middle School Jazz Band; Springfield High School Lab Band; Spring-Ford Area High School Lab Band; Hatboro-Horsham High School Jazz Band; Penn Wood High School Jazz Band; Springfield High School Jazz Band; Boyertown Area Senior High School Jazz Band; Pottstown High School Jazz Band and Pottsgrove High School Jazz Band, which played in exhibition only.
Photo by Evan Brandt
The Digital Notebook hometown favorite,
the Pottstown High School Jazz Band.

"In our area, Jazz music is alive and well," Pottsgrove Music Director Victor Holladay.

The entire evening was recorded by PCTV and will be televised at a later date. That effort was sponsored by Zezwitz Music.

Pottsgrove High School alum Jamal Reddick served as the master of ceremonies.

Bands are given one of four ratings:
  • Superior 
  • Outstanding 
  • Excellent 
  • Very Good

Below you'll find videos of performances from the area bands that played after I arrived at 7:30 p.m.

In some cases, they are not all the performances by each band (regrettably in the case of Boyertown as I failed to record a truly lovely soprano sax performance by Kelli Hess), but I was trying to conserve my iPhone battery.

However, I am posting them in the order they performed.

First up is Boyertown, now headed up by former Pottstown music teacher Brian Langdon.

The name of the song above is "Bemsha Swing" by Thelonious Monk and arrsanged by B. Holman.

Soloists are: Kelli Hess, tenor sax; Trey Yarnell, trumpet; Austin Bright, drum set; Alex Siwik, alto sax.

Next up (below) is "Big Dipper," by Thad Jones.

Soloists are: Sean Gallagher on guitar, Alex Siwik on alto sax; Darby Bauer on trumpet and Kelli Hess on tenor sax.

Boyertown earned a rating of "Superior" as well as being named the "best saxophone section."

Boyerytown's saxophone section is Alex Siwik, Amber Strohl, Kelli Hess, Adam Helmer, Lauren Vu and Elizabeth Gartland.

Also, Alex Siwik was named "honorable mention" in the best soloists competition and Kelli Hess was named one of the three top soloists.

Next up was Spring-Ford Area High School Jazz Band, directed by Seth Jones.

First up is "A Riff in Time" by Steve Spiegel.

Soloists are Sam Maxey on tenor sax; Timothy Goman on trombone; Josh Mack on trombone; Mat Mannino on guitar and Robert Meade on piano.

The next Spring-Ford offering we have (below) is their final piece, "Bepop N' Georgia" by Mark Taylor.

Soloists are Sam Maxey on tenor sax; Grant Raco on bass and Hans Kumar on drums.

This band earned a rating of "Outstanding."

Now we come to the final competing band, which was Pottstown High School's smokin' jazz band, under the direction of Michael Vought.

Because I cover Pottstown and Pottsgrove in my beat, they get unapologetic preference in my blog and I have posted all three numbers both bands performed.

The first Pottstown piece is "Gravy Waltz" by Ray Brown.

The soloist is Marley Bryan. Unfortunately, his microphone was not working and his solo is a little hard to hear.

Next up is "In a Sentimental Mood" by Mike Tomaro. The soloist is Marley Bryan on tenor sax.

By the way, Bryan was named as an "honorable mention" in the soloist competition.

A funny thing happened when it came time to record the third Pottstown piece, the automatically focusing iPhone failed to focus.

So this last one looks very fuzzy. I call it my impressionist video. But let's face it, you're not watching this for my visual video technique, you want to hear the music and the sound was unaffected as far as I could tell.

I thought about stopping it, and then re-starting it, which usually fixes it, and then I had visions of Mr. Vought's extreme disappointment at a break in the music and decided to let it be.

This piece is called "Two Seconds to Midnight" by Alan Baylock. The soloists are Sherif Mohamed on trombone; Marley Bryan on tenor sax and Jake Wunderlich on drums.

As a result of his performance in this piece, Mohamed was named one of the three top soloists.

Pottstown earned a rating of "Outstanding" and its trumpet section was also named as the best of all the bands.

Pottstown's trumpet section is Brandon Wilson, John Johnson, Chloe Francis and Austin Scavello.

The final three performances of the night were by the Pottsgrove High School Jazz Band under the direction of Victor Holladay.

As hosts, Pottsgrove was not competing but performing in exhibition only.

Their first number was "The Flik Machine" by Randy Newman and arranged by Paul Murtha.

The soloist is Joseph Clevenger on trumpet.

Pottsgrove's second piece (below) was "The Way We Were" by Marvin Hamlisch and arranged by Mark Taylor.

The soloist is Bernard Steyaert on trombone.

The final performance of the night was unusual in that there was a vocal solo, by Denisha Footman, whose lovely voice was somewhat under-served by the microphone system.

Nonetheless, it was an impressive performance on her part.

And now for some results not accompanied by video.

As I said, we did not attend the entire performance, so there is no video, not that my battery would have lasted if I tried to shoot them all..

The best trombone section award was won by Hatboro-Horsham High School.

The best rhythm section award was won by Penn Wood High School.

David Lewis of Hatboro-Horsham was named by the judges as the third top soloist.

Here are the ratings for the other schools which performed:
  • Pottsgrove Middle School Jazz Band -- "Excellent."
  • Springfield High School Lab Band -- "Excellent."
  • Spring-Ford High School Lab Band -- "Excellent."
  • Hatboro-Horsham High School Jazz Band -- "Superior."
  • Penn Wood High School Jazz Band -- "Outstanding."
  • Springfield High School Big Band -- "Outstanding."
The next jazz band competition in which Pottstown will perform is Saturday, March 1 at Boyertown Senior High School.