East LA College First Friday Jazz Series ends with sweet sounds of soul

By Sergio Berrueta      

The East Los Angeles College First Friday Jazz Series ended with a concert bang with the ELAC Jazz Band finally taking the spotlight.

Music Director and instructor Bob Dawson led the band kicking off with the Buddy Rich classic “Monitor Theme,” which set the tone for the night. The night was filled with rousing songs from classic jazz standards, blues, R&B and funk. Dawson took the reign of hosting duties providing humor throughout the show.

“I am aware it is November 30th, and this is the December concert. Just try to imagine snow and Christmas trees around you,” Dawson said making fun at the odd dating of the concert.”We hope you get your money’s worth since this was cost free,” he said.

“Tumbleweeds,” gave the old country western song a new jazzy spin with John Nunez and Mike Julian delivering fantastic solos on the alto sax and trombone.

Going on to perform the jazz standard “Corner Pocket,” former pianist for artist Pancho Sanchez, Dave Torres, shines with brilliant piano taking charge alongside Alfredo Valdez’s stellar tenor saxophone performance.

ELAC’s own Mike Julian created the arrangement for the piece known as “Gentle Rain,” a Latin flavored bossa nova tune. The tune had a  mellow vibe throughout the performance with some James Bond theme flair with trumpets blaring with seductive sounds.

Valdez once again delivered another winning performance on tenor sax. For the next song, “Just Friends,” the trombone section finally had time to steal the spotlight. The trombones traded notes with ease with the rest of band slowly creeping in to deliver a wall of sound experience.

Guitarist Juven Zapata proceeded to delight the audience with the classic funk tune “Squib Cakes” from Tower of Power, which had a terrific solo.

The performance also delivered a killer bass line by John Silva and fascinating percussion work by Adrian Monge ranging from melodic to a near manic pace alongside the band to bring bombastic sounds to the house.

The night proceeded to take a detour by bringing out special guest Joseph Arquette to sing alongside the band for two numbers, the first being the Oscar Hammerstein classic “Lover, Come Back to Me.” Arquetre swooned the crowd, with soulful vocals begging for his lover to return to him.

Arquette second performance was of Michael Buble’s cover of “Feelin’ Good,” a sweet and sentimental tune fitting to Arquette’s sweet and heartbroken voice, ready to move on with rousing instrumentals from the band to help create the sense of letting go.

The band went back to instrumentals with the Thelonious Monk tune, “‘Round Midnight,” with Angelica Solis on baritone sax leading the band in the beautiful, moody piece encompassing how Midnight time is.

Solis delivered a brilliant solo alongside Zapata who gives a sweet and simple solo that fits with the song beautifully.

The next piece is an original piece by Dawson entitled “Minor Technicality” with Julian giving a spectacular solo during the sleepy number. It transitions to epic sounds with Gamaliel Evangeliste improvising on the trumpet with a breezy solo.

The trumpet section lead the blues standard “Bucket of Blues,” with Professor Bobby Chavez playing an improvisational solo heading to a sensational closure at the end of the piece.

As the concert came to close, the band played one last number being the wonderful hit “I Was Made to Love Her” originally played by R&B and soul legend Stevie Wonder.

The sweet swells of the saxophone ringed out with Valdez thrilling with a breakdown solo filled with sweet sounds of soul.

The Jazz Band brought the entire house down with the sound of the jazz genre bending with style amazing the crowd. The finale to an extraordinary series of concerts did not disappoint and a fitting end to a fantastic run.

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