For those who want to take a detour from holiday music, George Stone, a composer-trumpeter-pianist, will perform tonight with the Cal State Northridge Jazz "A" Band.
Stone, 35, a CSUN alumnus who has composed music for television, professional and educational programs, will conduct the band in seven of his compositions.
"It is a modern approach to big band jazz composition and arranging," said Stone, who graduated from CSUN in 1988 and directs the jazz studies department at Cuesta College in Morro Bay. "It is a continuation of where Duke Ellington left off. All of us jazz writers have picked up where the last guy left off, passing the torch."
Stone's first album, "George Stone Big Band--Piece by Piece," is on the Sea Breeze Jazz Records label. His program tonight will include compositions by Thad Jones and Lars Janson.
Jones composes post-1940s straight-ahead swing music, said Matt Harris, CSUN's jazz band director. On the other hand, Janson's compositions build on 1990s swing.
Formed in the 1960s, the 16-member Jazz "A" Band has been acclaimed for its high caliber of musicians and the number of graduates who work in the recording and film industries.
In 1998, the group recorded a self-titled album, "CSUN Jazz 'A' Band" and was the first-place winner in the Fullerton and Reno jazz festivals.
Lisa Harriton, 20, who toured China with the group, joined the jazz band when she was a 16-year-old freshman trained in classical piano.
"I knew nothing about jazz except that I wanted to play it," said Harriton, who teaches piano and has recorded with such top jazz musicians as Joe LaBarbera, Dave Carpenter and John Pisano. "Matt [Jones] created a great environment to learn."
While the trend in big band jazz has tapered off, it is still popular with many college bands because it teaches so many different aspects of performance to young musicians, Stone said. Not only does the band provide big sounds, but it includes space for the rhythm section and soloists to improvise.
The group will perform next summer in Germany and at the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague.
CSUN Jazz "A" Band performs tonight at 8 at the Cal State Northridge Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff St. General admission $10, students $5. Call (818) 677-2488.