Bellevue College Jazz Night

BC vocal jazz ensemble performs at Carlson Theater. Alyssa Brown / The Watchdog

Bellevue College Jazz Night, held in the Carlson Theater on Friday Nov. 3, was presented by the Bellevue College Music Department. The Bellevue College Jazz Combo, Vocal Jazz Ensemble Celebration and Bellevue College Jazz Band performed live musical arrangements.

Bellevue College has been hosting Jazz Nights for over 40 years, and they continued the tradition this year with a few changes. This was one of the few concerts that featured all of the BC jazz ensembles together in one concert and a different selection of songs were played this year.

Celebration is an internationally acclaimed award-winning vocal jazz ensemble directed by Thomas Almli, director of choral music activities at BC since 2002 and chairman of the music department. Almli directed the choir through a series of songs that showcased the talents of the students who participated.

The ensemble sang through a selection of Jazz songs, including “Being Alive” by Stephen Sondheim. Several vocalists sang  written or improvised solos along with the live music.

“The biggest challenge is how early in the year this concert is. For the vocal group all music must be memorized, so that is challenging this early in the academic year,” said Almli.

The award-winning Bellevue College jazz band and combo directed by Jim Sisko also performed on stage at the event. Sisko, jazz band director and History of Rock ‘n Roll instructor at BC, started the night with the Jazz Combo ensemble who played a series of mixed vocal and instrumental pieces, and ended the show with the jazz band, who played together in a large group onstage.

The jazz combo kicked off the show with a few songs, including an instrumental version of “So What” by Miles Davis. The jazz band closed with a series of  arrangements such as “Lush Life” by Billy Strayhorn, which Sisko described as being “a really tricky tune” to play.

“They’re really wonderful, they work hard, they appreciate jazz, they appreciate the history and they listen hard to the forefathers of jazz. They’re really wonderful to be with,” said Sisko about the band.

“This is only 25 percent of the material we have. This is only scratching the surface of what we’ve been working on,” said Sisko. “We’ve been preparing a full two hours of music.”
Each ensemble included live rhythm sections such as the piano, bass and drums. Jazz Night was a joint performance of different sounds, linking all of the jazz sections into one concert.

“It was the first gig of the year, but I think we’ll keep developing as the year goes on,” said bassist Calvin Huynh.
The hour and a half show was only a small part of what the jazz groups have prepared thus far. Upcoming this month, there will be a jazz band combo concert Nov. 16 and a vocal jazz performance Nov. 22 in Carlson Theater.