UNLV Jazz Ensemble celebrates CD release, Monterey fest debut

UNLV’s official Homecoming Week doesn’t start until next month.

But a different homecoming celebration takes place Sunday at UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall, when the university’s Jazz Ensemble I and Latin Jazz Ensemble will play a triple-celebration concert.

In addition to honoring UNLV’s 60th anniversary, the concert marks the release of the UNLV jazz program’s latest CD, the two-disc “Rail Trails and Latin Journey III.”

The third part of the celebration? It’s the first performance by the jazz ensemble following its debut last weekend at the prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival.

The UNLV ensemble earned the gig in March with a first-place finish in the college big band division of Monterey’s Next Generation Jazz Festival, an annual competition for more than 1,000 student musicians, middle school through college.

OK, so UNLV tied for top honors with a group from Philadelphia’s University of the Arts.

Still, a win’s a win, and Dave Loeb — director of UNLV’s jazz studies program — will take it. Especially when it enables UNLV students to play alongside the biggest names in jazz.

“It’s historic for the whole college,” he says. “If this were football, this would be like the NCAAs. Some people say, ‘Dave, you’re pushing it.’ But it is — it’s like the Sweet Five or Six.”

Clearly, Loeb’s game is music, not football or basketball. But it’s a game he knows well, after more than three decades as Tony winner Ben Vereen’s pianist and conductor; Loeb’s other credits range from session pianist for such TV shows as “Family Guy” to performer everywhere from the Las Vegas Strip to the Hollywood Bowl.

UNLV’s jazz studies program has earned numerous accolades in its more than four-decade history, from DownBeat magazine’s Student Music Awards to enthusiastic CD reviews from JazzTimes.

But times have changed since UNLV’s jazz program began, Loeb notes.

Back then, there were “10 great jazz schools” vying for student musicians, he says. “Now, there are more than 200. The competition has dramatically increased.”

At the same time, jobs for professional musicians — especially in Las Vegas — are much harder to come by than in the days when every Strip casino had its own showroom orchestra. (Loeb did his part during the two-year run of “Steve Wynn’s ShowStoppers,” when he hired some former students to play in the show’s 31-piece orchestra he conducted.)

At a recent rehearsal, current students were concentrating on their Monterey festival set, which the ensemble will reprise at Sunday’s concert.

The half-hour program swings from a bossa nova-tinged “Take the A Train” — the legendary Duke Ellington Orchestra’s signature song, composed by Billy Strayhorn — to a lyrical, far-from-Disney take on “Someday My Prince Will Come,” a jazz classic since the ’50s.

Although the players are full-time students, Loeb and fellow faculty member Nathan Tanouye (whose professional associations range from principal trombonist with the Las Vegas Philharmonic to trombonist, arranger and orchestrator for Caesars Palace mainstay Celine Dion) “treat them like professionals,” Loeb says.

“We’re installing the professionalism,” he adds, which means that, every time UNLV’s jazz ensemble takes the stage, “we’re not going on as students — we’re going on as artists.”

Behind the big win

It’s tough to impress the judges at big competitions.

Dave Loeb knows.

“It’s subjective,” the head of UNLV jazz studies says. “Do they like straight-ahead jazz, or do they like real modern?”

Either way, the judges at the Monterey Jazz Festival’s Next Generation Festival liked what they heard from UNLV’s Jazz Ensemble I, which tied for top honors in the college big band division — and earned a performing spot at last weekend’s prestigious main festival in Monterey, California.

“It’s unbelievably difficult to be a judge at this thing,” says Loeb, who’s judged different divisions of the competition.

Judges are looking for certain things from the competing musicians, he explains.

“The creativity in the solos” is one factor, according to Loeb. Other must-have elements: “the ensemble’s tightness and drive,” whether the group is “rhythmically exciting” and whether the performance is “thematically, historically and texturally” accomplished.

During the Next Generation competition, the UNLV ensemble played a variety of tunes from several arrangers, including a student, Las Vegas saxophonist Julian Tanaka and “a well-known slow blues” from trumpet and big band legend Thad Jones.

For the latter, Loeb told his student musicians, “You gotta bring it, because everybody knows that one.”

UNLV’s Jazz Ensemble definitely did bring it during the competition, tying for first place in their division. But so did other student musicians, Loeb notes.

Walking toward the Monterey wharf, where the Next Generation festival’s exhibition stage was located, Loeb and other UNLV musicians heard a group — before they saw them — playing “a great chart we recorded. And one of the guys asked, ‘Are we playing against that group?’ ”

When they rounded the corner, and finally saw the musicians, they realized “it’s middle school kids.”

Contact Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @CarolSCling on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Skybar at Waldorf Astoria lets you sip your way through Las Vegas history
Skybar At Waldorf Astoria Lets You Sip Your Way Through Las Vegas History (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ultimate Belgium Waffle Sundae at Lavo
Lavo at the Palazzo serves a 16-scoop ice cream sundae that costs $800. (Rochelle Ricahrds, Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel lLas Vegas Review-Journal)
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"The Lion King" roars into Las Vegas
New music club 172 brings loud luxury to Las Vegas
New music venue at the Rio brings rock ’n’ roll and food together at intimate club. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fans fear for Zak Bagans’ safety in Las Vegas Halloween TV special
Fly Linq zip line time lapse
Fly Linq zip line timelapse
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu (Al Mancini Las Vegas Review-journal)
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center (Janna Karel/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recycled Art and Cute Dogs at Summerlin Festival Of Arts
Recycled Art, Cute Dogs Abound At Summerlin Festival Of Arts (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jason Aldean talks about the possibility of a Las Vegas residency
Country superstar Jason Aldean discusses his feelings about playing in Las Vegas and says he'd be interested in a Las Vegas residency when the time is right at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21, 2018.(John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who To Watch At Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful Setup
Workers preparing Fremont street for this weekend's Life is Beautiful festival, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The 46th annual Greek Food Festival will feed 25,000 people in Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zia Records Move
Zias Records is moving from its Sahara Avenue and Arville Street location to a bigger store. (Mat Luscheck/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video from Fertitta wedding Sep. 1
video from @wedstagrams of Fertitta wedding at Red Rock Resort
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like