UNLV’s jazz musicians reviving Monterey show at Ham Hall

Updated September 22, 2017 - 8:35 pm

Dave Loeb is an artistically precise individual. But the power of appearing with his UNLV Jazz Ensemble 1 at the prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival tossed him off-key.

“I’m looking out at the place, and it was packed, and I was just so nervous,” says Loeb, the acclaimed director of UNLV’s Jazz Studies program. “It was uncanny. I mispronounced ‘university’ when saying we were from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. It came out, ‘Uber-versity,’ or something.”

The UNLV Jazz Ensemble 1 lineup that performed in Monterey on Sept. 17 is resurrecting that performance at 2 p.m. Sunday at Artemus Ham Hall at UNLV. The performance marks the UNLV Jazz Studies program’s 60th anniversary and is the release party for its two-CD set, “Rail Trails and Latin Journey III.”

Even with all of the live music exploding around the city this weekend, Sunday’s UNLV jazz show is worth a look-see. The production features some of the very best young musicians in the country, under the direction of Jazz Ensemble 1 co-conductors Loeb and Nathan Tanouye.

Loeb has charted a deep resume, including his work with Ben Vereen for three decades, the music director of “Steve Wynn’s Showstoppers” and the orchestra for “Sinatra 100: An All-Star Grammy Concert” at Encore Theater. Loeb is also a session player for “Family Guy” on Fox, and is currently recording 12 hours of music for an upcoming documentary series on PBS.

Tanouye is best-known around VegasVille as a trombone wizard for Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns and Celine Dion’s orchestra at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, for which he writes the horn charts. Another popular and highly regarded artist, keyboard great Uli Geissendoerfer, leads the UNLV Latin Jazz Ensemble at Sunday’s show.

UNLV’s jazz program is at a high point in Loeb’s 16 years helming the ensemble. The musicians earned their performance spot by wining the top prize in the Big Band Division at the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival on April 2.

The ensemble shared top honors with the University of Arts “Z” Band from Philadelphia. In a serendipitous turn of events, Loeb and “Z” band director Matt Gallagher are friends — both attended West Chester University in Philadelphia.

Having won their way to the stage, the ensemble was very conscious of the fact their Sept. 15 performance was no audition. They performed two sets amid some of the giants of jazz.

“We were playing the 8:15 p.m. show on the main drag on the thoroughfare, and we saw Chick Correa and Herbie Hancock walking by to perform after us on the main stage,” Loeb said. “I mean, we were in with legends, on a very high level, and our students just ate it up.

Loeb continued: “We definitely brought it. It was a compelling experience, and we definitely created quite the buzz around Monterey.”

The UNLV Jazz program that has produced so many great Vegas artists — Tanouye being a terrific example — is always seeking support from the local music community. The appearance at Monterey, where only the top six jazz programs in the country are even invited to compete, solidifies the school as among the best in the U.S.

And now?

“We just want to keep it going,” Loeb says. “This is a momentum-builder. We have reached the pinnacle, so far, but there is no limit to what these students can do.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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