Listen to the music
The Essentially Ellington events, May 10-12, including the final concert May 12, featuring the three top bands playing with the Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra, will be webcast live on www. jalc.org/live or
Dan Strange is looking for perfection from his young students.
I Can’t Stop Loving You, a Don Gibson tune popularized by Ray Charles in 1962, sounds slamming. The rhythm section punches the pow-pow-pow accents Quincy Jones built into his arrangement of the familiar tune. The brass section’s blowing.
But Strange isn’t satisfied.
He thinks the take just done “sounds like game show music.” He tells the musicians gathered before him, “we’re not getting enough support from the saxes.”
Strange tells them the story of a famous jazz musician who got so enamored of a take in a recording studio, he shouted, “I can taste it!”
“What kind of stuff do you want us to taste?” asks bassist Leo Henkin, 17, a Gulliver Prep junior.
Henkin’s comment elicits giggles from the 17 high school musicians from eight schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties — from Coral Reef Senior High in Palmetto Bay to Dade Christian School in North Miami Beach — who make up the Community Arts Program (CAP) All-Star Jazz Ensemble.
The Ensemble, which practices at Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ, is among the best of the best in North America. It will compete in the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 2013 Essentially Ellington Competition & Festival, as well as participate in jam sessions with Wynton Marsalis. The Festival’s top three bands will solo with a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra during the main concert on May 12.
“It’s like meeting the people you see on records,” Leo said. “You think, ‘Wow, they are cool, they sound so good.’ It’s hard to believe they play like that and you’re playing in the same place as them. This blows me away.”
Among the 96 bands who entered the competition by submitting tapes, from which the 15 finalists were drawn, New World School of the Arts’ Jazz Ensemble from Miami will make its fifth trip to the competition, in addition to Fort Lauderdale’s Dillard Center for the Arts. These are the only jazz ensembles from Florida.
CAP, unlike the other two, is one of only four after-school programs to make the cut and the only group to do so whose base is a church.
And no one is happier, or more excited for his kids, who range from 14 to 19, than Strange.
“This hasn’t worn off, we’re actually going,” said Strange, also an adjunct professor in the jazz department at the University of Miami. “This was the time of year where we’d say, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice...?’ Being our first time is probably going to be that much more memorable.”
Daniel Sagastume, 17, a senior at Coral Reef, is the All-Star’s charter member, having played baritone sax with the Ensemble since its formation in October 2009. Daniel plans to attend the New England Conservatory of Music in the fall and hopes to have a career like Ed Calle, a jazz musician and top session player who has appeared on recordings by Frank Sinatra, Arturo Sandoval, Gloria Estefan and the Bee Gees.