By Ross Boissoneau
Big band swing? Check. Vocal stylings? Check. Special guest artists? Check.
Holiday tunes? Mmm, check. But as the title suggests, A Little Christmas, A Lot of Jazz will focus more on the likes of Basie and Ellington than on Santa and Rudolph.
The Northwestern Michigan College Jazz Ensembles concert Dec. 10 at Milliken Auditorium will include the Jazz Lab Band, Vocal Jazz Ensemble, and NMC Big Band. The concert will also feature the Blue Lake Faculty Jazz 6tet, comprised of performers from across the Midwest who teach at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp during the summer.
And for the first time, the Thursday night dress rehearsal will be open to the public as an Informance, featuring not only the college instrumental groups, but also performances by the 6tet and two local high school jazz groups.
This is a great opportunity for the high school bands to play in a concert setting, and to get immediate feedback from a group of jazz educators, said Hunter. Its an outreach program for the local schools, and will help our bands as well. Plus, its a chance for people who might not be able to see our Friday night show, or who want to see what goes into making jazz.
The Thursday night show will begin at 7 p.m. The Lab Band and Big Band will each play a tune, and then the two high school groups will perform, with each group getting feedback from the 6tet educators. Following a break, the 6tet will perform an additional set. That will enable those who need to leave early on a school night the chance to do so, while those who stay can enjoy the 6tets performance.
Tickets for the Informance are $5.
Friday nights concert will feature several tunes each by the Lab Band, Big Band and 6tet, as well as a shorter set by the Vocal Music Ensemble. Among the tunes will be standards such as Jersey Bounce and Corner Pocket, as well as several from the pen of the late John Moss, a respected musician, composer and friend of Hunters. The bands will be performing four of his arrangements and compositions: South Manitou Essay, which was a composition for a locally produced film; That September Feeling, an original composition featuring Hunter on trombone; Just In Time, an arrangement originally written for the Walt Boenig Big Band in Las Vegas; and Corbys Tune, an arrangement written for the John Trudell Orchestra in Detroit.
In addition to the music by the instrumental groups, the NMC Vocal Jazz Ensemble will perform a set including the holiday classic Silent Night as arranged by Gene Puerling of Singers Unlimited fame. Sandwiched around it will be more traditional jazz tunes Cinnamon and Clove by Sergio Mendes and the Nat King Cole classic Unforgettable.
EDGE OF HIPNESS
Hunter has been pleased with the groups progress this semester, so much so that at one rehearsal he noted, Were on the edge of hipness here. The group liked the comment so much it has now adopted that phrase as its new name.
In addition to his role as director of the NMC jazz groups, Hunter is a member of the 6tet. He plays trombone, alongside Tim Froncek (drums), Phillip Burkhead (piano), Chris Lawrence (trumpet), Gordon Lewis (bass), and a guest saxophonist.
Christmas music and jazz have an uneasy relationship. Trying to preserve the familiarity of holiday songs while staying true to the imperative of improvisation and jazz voicings makes the two particularly strange bedfellows. Hunter says finding good arrangements of holiday music for big bands is nearly impossible. But the 6tet may ride to the rescue of those longing for holiday favorites.
Well be performing a number of different tunes, maybe even something with a Christmas theme, said Hunter.
The show Friday will begin at 8 p.m. General admission tickets are $10 each and $6 for seniors 62 and over and children 12 and under.