Playing with professional precision and swagger, the Cal State Long Beach Jazz Ensemble won top prize at the First Queen Mary Intercollegiate Jazz Festival, held Friday in Long Beach. Besides a cash award, the band won a place on Sunday's festival program.
Six bands, selected by coordinator Paul Kardos of San Bernardino Valley College, competed in two divisions: Cal State Long Beach (director John Prince), Cal State L. A. (David Caffey) and Cal State Northridge (Joel Leach) in the University division; Mount San Antonio (Ashley Alexander), Riverside Community (Roger Rickson) and Fullerton (James Linahon) in the Community College division. Saxophonist Pete Christlieb, pianist Ross Tompkins and trumpeter Steve Spiegel judged the bands on such qualities as style, solos and phrasing.
The consistently first-rate CSLB band opened with "The Slauson Cut-Off," a stomping shuffle blues with a rousing organ-like solo from keyboardist Mark Nassey. Later, things quieted with "If You Could See Me Now," the Tadd Dameron evergreen that spotlighted a lovely bop-flavored alto spot from Scott Nordgren. "Take the Rebop Trane" highlighted the trombone section in a stunning a cappella soli, capped by ace solos from trombonists Jeff Adams and Wendell Kelly.
There was little difference between bands, and the CSLA Band, which came in third, sounded just as professional as CSLB. Outstanding was trombonist Luis Bonilla, who crackled on the opening "Focus" and on fellow boneman Jose Arellano's "Monstrosity," a tough uptempo piece that the band played with admirable poise and flair. Second-place CSUN's set had two terrific Latin/jazz tunes: Gordon Goodwin's "Rio"--where the band got a wailing wall of sound a la Dizzy Gillespie's band of the '50s and where sopranoist John Douglas soared--and Willie Colon's "La Murga," where guitarist Steve Gregory cooked.
Mount San Antonio's winning performance included "My Very First Jazz Tune" by Steve Mercado, a guitarist who evinced a Charlie Christian-Tal Farlow touch on "Undecided." His original went from rock to ballad to Latin and gave lots of room to altoists Mike Thomas, who played with substantial feeling, and Ed Hagihara, who traded stinging phrases with Thomas. Second place Fullerton sported crisp ensemble work, throbbing tenorman Dino Soldo, who shined on "Never Let Me Go," and trombonist Ryan Anglin, who was dandy on "Straight, No Chaser." Third place Runner-up Riverside offered some solid work on "Slide Fracture," with trombonists Chris Thomas and Brian Money, and "A Child Is Born," where guitarist Richard Thompson played with warmth.
The event showed there's no dearth of young jazz talent in our area.