By ROHAN MEKALA
The JP Stevens Band program is known throughout as one of the most rigorous, competitive and demanding music programs in the state. On May 18th; however, the JP Stevens Lab Jazz (lower ensemble) and Top Jazz ensemble took a step back from their usual competitive demeanor to deliver a lighter yet just as composed performance representing the culmination of a whole year’s worth of work. The ensembles showcased their most popular songs from over the course of the year as well as a few new ones played specifically for this event.
The performance opened with the Lab Jazz Ensemble, led by Mr. Zazzali. The first song, “Gumbo Street,” featured two applauded solos by junior Chandan Jain on trumpet and Thomas Hsu on saxophone. Following this upbeat song was the ballad “No Regrets”, dedicated to one of Mr. Zazzali’s old professors at TCNJ. This tune included a solo by freshman Brian Jiang on the flugel horn. One noteworthy song in this segment of the performance was the song, Madrid, which included a solo by junior Andrew Chen on the trombone.
Following the Lab Jazz Ensemble and a short break, the Top Jazz Ensemble, led by Mr. DeNicola, took the stage and amazed the crowd with a variety of songs. To start was “Laura” by famed composer Jim Martin. During this song, junior Cheikh Higgs took the stage with a solo that received great applause from all. The fast-paced song “Symphony in Riffs” followed this performance and was succeeded by the ballad “Lush Life,” Billy Strahan’s signature song.This song featured junior Zachary Kibel on the flugel horn. He also showcased his skills in Dear Old Stockholm which featured senior Anish Soni drumming out a solo.
Just when the performance seemed to be over; however, Mr. DeNicola took the microphone and invited JP Stevens band alumni up to the stage to perform with the band. The alumni and Top Jazz ensemble came together to gave an unforgettable performance. Songs played included the Rocky, Sesame Street and the iconic MacArthur Park. Mr. Edy Hurstman, a staple at the Extravaganza for over 25 years, yet again soloed in many of these songs. Sophomore band member Nivea Mohankumar explains “My favorite part of the event was when the alumni and top jazz played together because sitting in the audience and listening made you see how music really brings people together.” This unorthodox segment of the show also included several improvisational performances by students both old and new. Students were free to go up to the microphone and play. Junior Cheikh Higgs recounts, “It was really exciting to be able to go up to that mic and show the alum how much I’ve improved since their departure.”
This last part of the concert had everyone engaged in the music but the end was clearly near. To the audience’s surprise; however, two band alumni walked off the stage and into the aisles to give one last breath of life to the concert. This captivating finale left everybody’s ears ringing and received loud applause from the audience.
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