Review of

JazzAmerica Little Big Band

May 6, 2018


They came, they saw, and they blew us away!  On this first Sunday in May the Valley Jazz Club members were bolstered by the parents of the JazzAmerica Little Big Band student musicians  so both the tables and the stage were full. Some of these teenage jazz musicians were some 70 years younger than I am — how could that be?   The leader of these youngsters was, in his suitably styled white hair, Richard Simon, who has been the successful successor to  the renowned player of flute, saxophone & clarinet, Buddy Collette, for about 24 years.


Mr. Simon is also an acclaimed musician in his parallel career as an artful player of the upright bass.  He has even performed with the king of the country of Thailand — a trumpet player himself —in the palace in Bangkok.  The king liked Richard so much that he invited him back a second year.


There were 9 instrumentalists arranged on stage with a row of 6 in front and two players in the rear, and the pianist perpendicular at the right side.  The first row consisted of saxophonists Alex Taylor, Kenneth Dixon, Kai Suzuki; violinist, Leon Bronshvag; and trumpet players Sabrina Rice and Joseph Mejia.  The rhythm section comprised drummer Yusuko  Azuma and bass player Harmony Forsythe.  The piano player facing them all was Eric Zavala.


Saxophonist Kenneth Dixon is this year’s scholarship recipient for the Sacramento Youth Traditional Jazz Camp, which puts players in small groups to explore and learn improvisation for a summer week in the mountain retreat.


There were 10 songs, each featuring one or more musicians.  The band started with the familiar High Society (written in 1901 by Porter Steele) performed by the band in notable synchrony, with soloist Kenneth.Dixon on soprano sax.  Then came Arabian Rhapsody — a Rosy McHargue song — featuring Alex Taylor on tenor sax, Eric Zavala on piano and Joseph Mejia on trumpet.


Third was Victory — a 1944 James P. Johnson stride piano tune — with the band showcasing Eric Zavala on piano and Sabrina Rice on trumpet.  This was followed by a tune with a calypso beat called Fungii Mama written in 1964 by Blue Mitchell (real name) — with a magnificent intro and a complicated rhythm by drummer Yusuko  Azuma.


Fifth was the James Brown favorite I Feel Good, after which came The Jody Grind, with a funky intro by Yusuko,  and another Horace Silver tune You Gotta Shake.  Another tune was Crazy Rhythm which featured Kai Suzuki on sax and a vocal by trumpet player Sabrina Rice.  Then came Emaline, the theme song for the 1962 movie “Trauma”, with a terrific violin solo by Leon Bronshvag.


The ninth song was Buddy Collette’s April Skies, a tune based on the chords of “I’ll Remember April,” which highlighted  Alex Taylor and Kai Suzuki.  This song was very danceable as signified by the almost full dance floor.  The last tune was another of Mr. Collette’s, named Veda, the name of his daughter.  This bossa-nova piece showcased Kenneth Dixon  on soprano sax and _Joseph Mejia on trumpet.


How good I feel about our members and our jazz club, that we continue to support the creation and growth of new young musicians, who will help to keep traditional jazz alive for future generations.

  ——Bob Berman


A not for profit organization dedicated to promoting Jazz in the San Fernando Valley.