MHS Jazz Ensemble showcases talent at performances


Photo by Megan Burns

Senior Neil Martin playing a solo during the song “Caravan” while Senior Will Gonzalez and Sophomore Aidan Ross accompany him during the band’s Feb. 22 performance at the Chicago Jazz Showcase. The song, composed by Duke Ellington, is famous for being featured in the 2014 film “Whiplash.”

Megan Burns, Print Editor-In-Chief

  After a quick turnaround from the Jan. 21 Purdue University Jazz Festival, MHS Jazz Ensemble prepared four new pieces for their end-of-February performances at the Chicago Jazz Showcase and the Elmhurst Jazz Festival.

  Their first performance was on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at the Jazz Showcase.

  According to the official website, the Jazz Showcase is the oldest historic jazz club in Chicago. Many famous jazz musicians have performed there, such as Count Basie: a famous pianist, bandleader and composer. 

  The Jazz Ensemble’s performance opened for the Bob Lark Alumni Big Band with “Film Noir- Part I,” “Old Macdonald,” “Georgia on my Mind” and “Caravan.”

  “Each chart is very different and engaging,” Band Director Andy Sturgeon said. “It [was] a diverse set with a variety of styles.”

  These four songs were also performed at the Elmhurst Jazz Festival on Thursday, Feb. 23.

  “The Elmhurst Jazz Festival is a college Jazz Festival hosted by Elmhurst University,” Sturgeon said. “On Thursday of the festival weekend the festival invites five high school jazz bands to perform and receive clinics.” 

  The festival also includes guest performances. Among this year’s guest artists was the Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band– an 18-piece jazz orchestra that has a “contemporary, highly original sound” from Goodwin’s “hard-swinging compositions” in a “grab bag of styles” (according to the band’s official website). 

  The festival wasn’t just to showcase their hard work, though, as stated by Sophomore Chloe Langford.

  “The purpose of the festival is not only to perform for other students and share what your school has been working on, but to receive feedback on your playing,” Langford said. 

  The band has encountered some challenges preparing for these performances, besides the month and a half preparation time. 

  “Each song has its very specific challenges,” Leila Moon, senior said. “‘Caravan’ has a lot of syncopated rhythms, which [we had] been working on aligning. We [had] also been working on intonation in ‘Film Noir’ and perfecting our chicken and cow noises in ‘Old MacDonald.’”

  Moon also noted that, to prepare, the band was “digging in on learning [their] parts thoroughly.”

  “We [had] been working on specific details like building dense chords with good intonation, articulating notes musically, and adding in dynamics,” Moon said.

  With the songs being very different from each other, picking a favorite from the set can be difficult.

  “My favorite song being played at these performances has actually changed three times throughout this short time period: first it was ‘Old MacDonald,’ second it was ‘Film Noir,’ and now it’s ‘Caravan,’ which just shows how different– but fun– each song is,” Moon said. “I like ‘Caravan’ because it switches styles frequently from Latin to swing and has challenging, fun parts for the entire band. It also features [Junior] Sam Penteado, one of our drummers, who is extremely talented.”