Mesa Community College’s Jazz Band has left a tide of successful performances. They have captivated audiences not only at home but across the country as well, performing at various festivals and concerts. Their ambition is unbounded and matched only by their skillful talent. In the past year the ensemble has held multiple performances at the Performing Arts Center as well as other locations and venues across the valley.
Paul Brewer is the MCC director of jazz studies and the band conductor. He said, like America, “[It] is a true melting pot. Pretty much every race and religion has contributed to the evolution of jazz in America.”
There are seven jazz combos and two big bands in the MCC jazz program. The two big bands are split between daytime students including music majors, while the other is for professional performances around town, officially known as the Mesa Performing Arts Jazz Ensemble (MPJE).
“The jazz combos and the daytime big band have anywhere from nine to 12 rehearsals between concerts. Rehearsals last for an average of an hour,” Brewer said. “MPJE usually has around five rehearsals between concerts. We usually have between six and seven jazz performances a semester.” A glimpse across the theater during any performance show and it is clear to see the group attracts a wide range of followers.
During a recital on Feb. 28 at the MCC Performing Arts Center the opening act, was performed by the Latin Jazz Band. It included musical pieces “I’ll Remember April”, “Recordame” and “St. Thomas.”
Each piece had different musical arrangements which kept the audience engaged. The Jazz Ensemble performance was conducted by Brewer.
The majority of the audience at the Feb. 28 showing were senior citizens, and for Brewer that does not hold the band back.“Many of the audiences tend to be over 60 in the Phoenix area,” Brewer said. “We receive a lot of support from the surrounding retirement communities.”Brewer also explained that jazz’s popularity has gone down. But he added that their work has maintained a popularity on campus.
“At MCC, we love to bring jazz to the younger demographic in hopes of generating more interest in this awesome art form.” For its final act on that Feb. 28 evening performance, the Band eased the audience into the pièce de résistance, consisting of five upbeat and lively pieces, performed by the Jazz Ensemble. Brewer said the jazz band students often get together in the weeks leading up to a performance to practice, even outside of class.
The Jazz Ensemble and Latin Jazz Band will perform on Apr. 17 at the Performing Arts Center. Details about this show and others are found on the MCC Performing Arts Center website.