Both of Garfield High School's jazz bands won their divisions at the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival in Moscow, Idaho, while Spokane's Mead High School band placed No. 2 in Class 4A, and Seattle's Roosevelt High School — the top band at Hampton in 2008 — received a "special commendation" in the same category.
In a Nazarene church in Moscow, Idaho, the Garfield High School jazz band performed two charts Saturday night for the first time: “Just You Just Me,” and “I’ve Never Been In Love Before.”
“We played the new charts very well,” said woodwind player Carl Majeau, a senior, “but we could get the dynamics a lot tighter and bring the energy level up a little. When you’re not 100 percent comfortable with the tune, more of your mind goes to playing instead of keeping up the energy level.”
Whatever Majeau and his bandmates may have thought, the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival judges who heard the performance deemed Garfield’s the best of the weekend, naming the group the “outstanding” Class 4A band. For the first time, both Garfield’s A band and its B, or second-string band, won their divisions at the prestigious festival, which has combined performance with jazz education for more than 40 years.
Garfield’s B band and Bellevue’s Sammamish High School were both named outstanding among Class 3A bands. Four members of Garfield’s A band were also recognized as outstanding soloists: Majeau, pianist Andrew Kennard, bassist Colleen Gilligan and trumpeter Riley Mulherkar.
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“They’ve been stepping it up ever since the Clark [College Jazz Festival] competition a month ago,” said Garfield band director Clarence Acox.
The Hampton festival, which ran four days, featured performances by jazz greats like Bobby McFerrin, Monty Alexander and Jeff Hamilton. But the central aim of the festival is to nurture young talent from colleges, high schools, middle schools and even elementary schools.
“I am especially pleased with the success of the visiting artists to help show the surrounding communities what supporting our jazz-playing youth is all about,” said festival artistic director John Clayton. “And as always, the Seattle-area schools continue to impress.”
Other soloists from Seattle schools who were honored included: Peter Johnson (violin) from Bishop Blanchet; Andrew Campbell (alto sax) and Andy Clausen (trombone), both from Roosevelt; and drummer Ian Marsanyi from South Whidbey. All of the outstanding soloists performed together Saturday night in a club setting before a crowd of about 300.
Much of the attention in the big-band performance was focused on Garfield and Roosevelt, whose programs have a fierce rivalry. Spokane’s Mead High School was the No. 2 band in the Class 4A category, for the largest schools in the field. Roosevelt’s jazz band received a “special commendation” in the same category.
The jazz bands from Garfield, Roosevelt and Bellevue’s Newport High will compete in May in the Essentially Ellington national jazz-band competition in New York. Roosevelt and Garfield placed first and second, respectively, at Ellington last year.
“Garfield has a very good, very deep program,” said Roosevelt band director Scott Brown. “You’d be pressed to find a program elsewhere in the country with as many strong musicians as Garfield. We feel very proud to be able to perform continually at that same level.”
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