Jazz Ensemble Performs at Famous Venue


Trevor Fox, Staff Reporter

The MHS Jazz Ensemble performed at Fitzgerald’s Night Club as the opening act for the Chicago Skyliner’s Big Band in suburban Berwyn, just seven miles west of the United Center and about four miles northeast of the Brookfield Zoo.

The MHS band performed for 45 minutes on Sunday, Nov. 15, and included tunes, such as “Indian Lady” by Don Ellis and “How High The Moon”, as arranged by David Wolpe.

“I think [“Indian Lady”] fits our band’s personality really well,” said Band Director Andy Sturgeon. “It allows us to play with a little bit of reckless abandon, and it allows for fun solos.”

MHS lead trombone player Henry Carpender, senior, said that his most memorable moment was “standing up at the end of “Indian Lady”, [the] closer, and being able to lead the band into the end of the song, just staring out into the room and seeing everyone there.”

These songs fit the style of jazz that the Chicago Skyliner’s are known for, as the group has been playing contemporary arrangements of classic standards from artists like Count Basie and Maynard Ferguson since its establishment in 1988. It was in 1991 when the Chicago Skyliner’s partnered with Fitzgerald’s to become a regular act there.

The venue has a suburban look and aims to provide a relaxing place for people to escape the city life and just wind down with some jazz music in a place that, according to the Fitzgerald’s website, “has gained a national reputation for excellent live music in a casual, comfortable atmosphere.”

Fitzgerald’s has been host to different events, including the filming of scenes from the 1992 film “A League of their Own”, starring Madonna, Tom Hanks and Rosie O’Donnell, as well as Bon Jovi’s music video for his song “Lost Highway”.

“It was a totally different experience,” said Junior Anna Desfor, jazz band player. “It was almost like a movie set…. It has the walls painted and low lights.”

Carpender said that this experience was good for the band.

“It was nice to be out of our element,” Carpender said. “We really expanded our horizons by going to a real club and doing real things to prove we, too, are real musicians even though we’re in high school.”

The Jazz Ensemble not only enjoyed the uniqueness of the venue but also the memories they made with the Chicago Skyliner’s at the event.

MHS drummer Phineas Gleber, senior, said, “Talking to the drummer of the band, who was also the leader of the band that we opened up for, was just really memorable.”

Desfor said that this drummer, band leader Bill O’Connell, told the MHS Jazz Ensemble that what they were doing was great.

“He said that it was really cool to have us out there,” Desfor said. “[O’Connell said] that jazz is a really important part of life, and even if it’s not what you do with your life, it’s important to have it.”

It was O’Connell who contacted Sturgeon and the MHS administration to propose the idea he had of having the MHS Jazz Ensemble open for his Chicago Skyliner’s Big Band, but other members of the band also made an impact on the MHS musicians.

“One of the trombone players I actually had met before,” said trombone player Karl Kirkpatrick, sophomore. “To be able to see him in his professional career and to see that he’s not only teaching but he’s also playing around Chicago and playing in other bands and to be able to talk to him about his experiences was really cool.”

Another thing that made this experience memorable for the band was that the audience was receptive to their performance.

“You have a mix of parents who are really supportive of jazz students and you also have a mixture of enthusiasts of jazz,” said Katie Lambert, senior trombonist.
This audience was what set apart this experience from others for the MHS musicians.

“My favorite part was how it was more of a public space rather than a school auditorium. We didn’t just get family members,” said Gleber. “It was really cool to see how many people supported a high school band.”

The seniors in the band were able to say from experience that it was because of this audience that they were able to perform at a higher level and also enjoy it more.

Carpender said, “It’s always positive to get enforcement from the audience because you know they’re listening to you and you know that they’re paying attention to what you’re saying and not just hearing you.”

Sturgeon said he hopes that this will have influenced his students and expanded their knowledge on what careers in music are like.

“I think the students’ take away from this is getting to perform music in a setting where they see what professionals who are performing music as a career are doing,” said Sturgeon. “This is really the most authentic type of performance that this band can have.”

The Jazz Ensemble will next be performing at a local concert in December as well as at the All State Convention for Music in January.