29th Annual Jazz Festival at GHS “Essentially Ellington,” Totally Talented

By Leslie Yager
Superlatives abound in describing the day-long jazz festival at Greenwich High School on Saturday. In a tremendous undertaking, showcasing stellar talent, the regional festival marked its 29th year.

John Yoon, the band director for GHS, along with a host of student and parent volunteers welcomed ten ensembles from Connecticut and New York.

crowd at jazz festThe daylong event was attended by  jazz fans of all ages, some who traveled a great distance for the display of talent. With both a Jazz Lab Band a Jazz Ensemble, GHS was unique among the 10 bands who joined them at the festival.

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Talented members of the GHS Jazz Ensemble. Contributed photo, Lisa Bologna.

GHS Jazz Ensemble
John S. Yoon, Director

Saxophones
Trvor Kelly, alto
Christian Lee, alto
Vince Urbanowski, tenor
Peter Russell, tenor
Stephen Aly, bari

Trumpets
Doug Wrotnowski
Jackie Bein
Tommy Glover
Kotaro Yamashiro

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The GHS Jazz Ensemble performed in exhibition toward the end of the festival. Contributed photo, Lisa Bologna.

Trombones
Ben Albano
Paul Collins
Mia Constanza
Aaron Kim

Rhythm Section
Tim Prier, piano
Lucas Mangold, piano
Nikhil Mandava, guitar
Christopher Healy, bass
John McCormack, drums

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The LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts was top band of the festival. Featured: Emmett Sher on guitar.

The top band of the day was LaGuardia High School‘s senior jazz band under the direction of Kevin Blancq, winning “Outstanding Band Performance.” The school, located in New York City, has a competitive admissions process.

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Darien High School Jazz Band directed by Jonathan Grauer performed “A Mis Abuelos” by Arturo Sandoval/Michael Mossman, “15 Minutes Late” by John Clayton, “Nancy Jo” by Gerald Wilson/David Berger and “Cruisin’ for a Bluesin” by Andy Weiner/Peter Blair.

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Members of the Nyack High School Jazz Ensemble played with “cards” from napkins while they listened to the Joel Barlow High School Ensemble play.

According to Wynton Marsalis, Managing and Artistic Director, Jazz at Lincoln Center, who partner with GHS and Mr. Yoon for the regional festival, the event well organized and well run. After each band’s performance, the members participate in something of a de-brief or critique from one of the festival judges.

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The East Catholic Jazz Ensemble from Manchester, CT, included a marimba.

Bands that traveled to Greenwich to participate in the festival included Brien McMahon High School Jazz Ensemble directed by Ron Secchi, Staples High School Jazz Band directed by Nick Mariconda, Harrison High School Jazz Band directed by Charles Briem, Nyack High School Jazz Ensemble directed by Michael E Smith, Brooklyn High School of the Arts directed by John Scandone, Institute for Collaborative Education directed by Roy Nathanson, St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute dorected by Russell Owens, Joel Barlow High School Jazz Ensemble directed by Chris Breault, Darien High School Jazz Band directed by Jonathan Grauer, East Catholic High School Jazz Ensemble directed by David Burdz,Lynnbrook High School Jazz Ensemble directed by Brian White, and the LaGuardia High School Senior Jazz Band directed by Kevin Blancq.

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Some bands used “hat mutes.” The East Catholic Jazz Ensemble, directed by by David Burdz, used rubber plunger mutes instead. Plunger mutes are simply unused rubber sink or toilet plungers with the wooden handle removed..

Festival Emcee and Judges
The festival emcee was Rick Petrone who sketched the directors in pencil on a drawing pad between making announcements and change-overs in bands ever half hour.

The Competition judges were Justin DiCioccio, Rich Perry, Gregory Gisbert and Scott Brown. DiCioccio is an internationally recognized jazz educator who was inducted into the Jazz Education Hall of fame in 2001. In 2002, he was named assistant dean of Manhattan School of Music, where he chairs the school’s jazz department.

Rich Perry joined the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra in 1977, which included Pepper Adams, Jerry Dodgion, Rufus Reid and Harold Danko at the time. He spent two years touring the US and Europe. the band, with Perry as a key member, is now known as The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and continues to tour and record. Three of their recent CDs have been nominated for Grammy awards.

Gregory Gisbert took up the drums as a child and later picked up the Flugelhorn and went on to attend Berklee College of Music in the 80s, where he recorded alongside Cyrus Chestnut as part of Phil Wilson’s Rainbow Band. At Berklee Gisbert had the chance to go on the road with Buddy Rich. He has recorded three albums under how own name and is currently on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music.

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Joel Barlow High School Jazz Ensemble directed by Chris Breault.

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