The audience clapped and tapped their feet along to the songs performed at the Jazz Combo Night in the Fullerton College Campus Theatre on Monday, Apr. 30.
The performance featured sets from three jazz ensemble groups, each made up of five or more musicians, and played four songs of their choosing.
From classic jazz standards like “I Never Knew” to an original song by student Oscar Rodriguez from Combo #1, each selection acted as the foundation for the performance, with the students improvising and adding their own personal flair.
One of Combo Night’s directors and music department instructors, Michael Scott, believes that the improvisation is what sets jazz apart from other styles of music. The students must know all the ins and outs of their instrument to come up with their own melodies.
That familiarity was evident throughout the concert. Every student had the chance to improvise a solo at any point during their performance and they took full advantage of it.
The night opened on a lively note with Combo #3’s rendition of “Groove Elation” by John Scofield. This group of musicians included an alto saxophonist, violinist and drummer, just to name a few.
The energy and enthusiasm of this group was followed by the smooth instrumentation of Combo #2, directed by music department instructor Joseph Jewell.
Their synchronicity showed as they played Herbie Hancock’s “Tell Me a Bedtime Story” among other pieces.
“Memorizing is a fun part of playing new music,” said Stacy Hwang, the pianist from Combo #2.
Once Hwang learns new selections, she can try improvising based off the original notes of the song. She improvised her own melodies throughout her group’s time on stage.
The guitarists, pianist, bass player and drummer from Combo #2 seemed to communicate through the notes they played on “Free for All” by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.
The final group to perform was Combo #1 directed by Bruce Babad, the Coordinator of Jazz Studies.
Combo #1 started their set with a fast tempo piece called “Airborne” and followed with an original song written by guitarist Oscar Rodriguez.
The five musicians of Combo #1 closed out the night with “Caravan” by Duke Ellington, an energized big band-styled selection.
Jazz Combo Night provided an opportunity for the students to experiment on stage in a live jam session. The course has helped these students to grow as musicians and performers.
Scott said that they “learn a lot of the fundamentals here and it gives them a good start to wherever they end up going.”
“Our students can carry what they have learned here into their future, even if it doesn’t include music school,” Scott added.
The night was about showcasing all the hard work that the students had put in throughout the semester and letting them enjoy the night.
“Getting to play with these great musicians onstage is so inspiring,” Rodriguez said. “Being onstage gives me an adrenaline rush, it’s a very rewarding feeling.”