With an evening temperature warm enough to fool everybody into thinking it was summer, Dos Pueblos High’s evening of big bands, “Jazz in Paradise,” lived up to its name.
Although this annual competition of high school bands has been going on for 46 years, 2015 marked a first, with its full evening concert and with college division bands playing in a festival-style atmosphere.
The Jazz Festival was the long time wish of Dos Pueblos teacher Les Rose, who said he saw the lack of a jazz festival in Santa Barbara — the Santa Barbara Festival of Arts & Jazz stopped in 2008 — and thought an evening of the state’s best bands would bring some of that vibe back.
To do so he invited Bob Mintzer, sax player for the Yellowjackets and himself a teacher at USC, to come up and not only conduct master classes all day with the various bands, but play with Dos Pueblos’ band in the jazz concert.
“Bob was my vision for a jazz luminary to bring to our festival,” Mr. Rose said. “I thought of him because USC is accessible, and being a Grammy-award winner and educator, I thought he was the perfect person to be at our festival.”
“There were a lot of compelling reasons to come,” said Mr. Mintzer, “Plus I’m interested in education, and this is all an adventure to me.”
Mr. Mintzer hosts master classes around 20 times a year, and on Saturday had been working since 10 a.m.
“I try to inspire students to go ‘Wow, it would be worthwhile to put energy into doing the research (about the history of jazz),’ but also to point them in the right direction. It’s knowledge and experience and vocabulary. You need some level of connection to the inner workings of what you’re trying to do.”
Dos Pueblos’ Advanced Band played four songs to kick off the evening, with touring saxophonist Jacob Scesney sitting in on lead alto.
That was followed by the UCLA Latin Jazz Big Band, directed by Grammy-nominated artist Dr. Buddy Rodriguez, and the evening closed with Cal State Northridge Jazz Big Band with Gary Pratt conducting.
Earlier in the evening the awards were announced. Goleta Valley Junior High won the Junior High division, Santa Maria High School won the Intermediate High School division, and San Marcos High School won the Advanced Division.
Moorpark College Jazz A Group won the college level.
Jeremy Jacobs, 15, an Agoura Hills High School sophomore, plays baritone sax at an advanced enough level to join the Moorpark College band.
Jeremy said watching some of the other bands was “impressive. It’s the technique. … I’ve played charts that are easy, but then you have to solo. … Jazz is a great experience and I love playing with this band.”
For Mr. Mintzer, learning jazz is not just about the music.
“Hopefully, working with guests like myself will steer them not just into being better musicians but better people,” he said. “Your musicianship is a reflection of you as a person. Are you well-read, cordial, or gregarious? Do you have social sensibility?
“It goes beyond what you know about music, it’s what you know about life.