Lincoln was Swingin’ as Site of All-City Jazzfest

They call it the All-City Jazzfest, but this close to Thanksgiving maybe the tongue slips and you describe it as a jazzfeast. Whatever you call it, the Commons at Lincoln High School were jammed and jammin’ last night for a showcase featuring six jazz bands from four DMPS high schools.

Ryan Rowley, the district’s Coordinator of Fine and Performing Arts, welcomed the crowd to an annual event that’s been going on for 14 years, saying it’s unique because it brings ensembles from different schools together in a noncompetitive, celebratory spirit.

Toes tapped, fingers snapped and of course, hands clapped in the upbeat café atmosphere. One of the cool things about jazz is that you can clap whenever somebody steps out and solos right in the middle of a tune. Last night one of the bands even drew applause for their warm-up scales.

Jazz is an acquired taste and it’s come to many of these musicians after years of the usual lessons and drills on their instruments. Roosevelt sophomore Hannah Marks is fresh from last weekend’s All-State Music Festival in Ames where she earned a spot as a cellist in the orchestra. In jazz band she plays bass, both upright and guitar. Her training leans classical. In fact, she came to last night’s performance straight from a rehearsal at the Des Moines Symphony Academy. But she says she plans to be a jazz major in college.

“I played in the jazz band in 8th grade,” she said, “but I really got hooked on Kind of Blue by Miles Davis during a summer jazz camp at Simpson College last year.” Marks says her classical and jazz selves feed off of one another and that she appreciates the freedom to improvise that jazz affords after stints of discipline and repetition required to learn classical masterworks. Shifting genres from classical to jazz is comparable to a well-coached basketball player fleeing the gym for a no-holds-barred game on the playground.

Even the names are cool in jazz. Lorenzo Zenitsky sounds more like a character in a Tarentino film than a baby-faced guitarist riffing on Night Train in a high school jazz band.

East opened the show under the direction of Joseph Thering followed by “Jazz II” groups from Lincoln and Roosevelt led by Kevin Stegemann and David Steinke, respectively. Hoover was next with their bandleader, Randy Hoepker, sitting in on guitar. Then came Roosevelt’s “Jazz I” and Treg Marcellus. The house band, Lincoln’s “Jazz I,” (*) brought things to a boil, wrapping up the night with a number appropriately titled “Café Caliente.”  

The hotter jazz gets, the cooler it is.

*Lincoln Jazz I includes four of the school’s all-state choristers as instrumentalists, the swinging sibling duos of Sam (tenor sax) and Ben (trumpet) Sides and Allison (trumpet) and Jessica (piano) Richter.

Photos from the All-City Jazzfest at Lincoln

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