Jazz band captivates audience

By Russel Zazueta 

Jazz music performed by the Charlie Ferguson Sextet did a great job in charming audiences of all ages during the First Friday Jazz Series concert at East Los Angeles College.

Inside the dimly-lit recital hall, shades of blue light shot up the walls for ambience, when pianist Charlie Ferguson counted off the next jazz standard by snapping his fingers.

The sextet launched into a standard called “Breakfast Wine,” and the musicians on stage played it with an inebriated style of passion for music.

This is a song where every member of the group got his chance to shine in the limelight with an instrumental solo, and then passed it along to the next musician.

In fact, almost every song had moments like these, with solos from Billy Kerr on saxophone, Michael Stever on trumpet, Jacques Voyemant on trombone, as well as Ferguson.

Watching their juices flowing out into each instrument was delightful because they made it look so easy. “Breakfast Wine” ends on a cacophony of brass solos.

Most of the songs performed at the concert were jazz standards, meaning the songs are originals to another composer, and they were embellished with improvisations like tempo changes and solos made up on the spot.

Since the renditions are unique to the music group, it cast a sort of hook-and-line to keep the audience engaged and alive.

Somewhere in the jazz standard block of songs, Ferguson squeezed in some original compositions of his own and told the audience that  he was’s happy to showcase them.

As before, Ferguson started snapping his fingers to the count of his piano.

His original “Boogie Machine” begins with a soft wail from       Kerr’s sax, and it’s superimposed gently over a sort of lazy groove played by drummer Nate Luguzza and upright- bassist Chris Conner.

Before the trumpet came skipping in to liven up the mood, the trombone took over like a sad elephant call and it really captured the mood he was going for.

The star of this song was obvious though, especially when the audience applauded louder for Kerr’s second solo.

Time flew by with “Blue and Sentimental,” which was romantic and dreamy over a background bass line that sounded more like slow and steady raindrops pecking on a window.

Then Kerr set the mood as the song continued.

The audience showed their acclaim with cheers after he finished and stood hugging his sax on stage.

In “All of Me,” the structure of the song gave Laguzza moments to demonstrate his improvisation skills on his sparkling silver pearl drumset.

Music Department Chair Bob Dawson took the stage before the closing song and thanked the Charlie Ferguson Sextet, as well as the audience, for coming out and supporting jazz music.

After the show, when asked what he is feeling during his solos, Kerr said, “I don’t really feel or think anything. Fun show. It was great.”       

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