BAR HARBOR— Jazz is said to be America’s only true art form. Given the results of last week’s District VI High School Instrumental Jazz Festival, that rich cultural heritage is alive and well here on Mount Desert Island.
MDI High School not only hosted the Feb. 25 festival that attracted musicians from nine schools, all bands and combos from the Bar Harbor school scored well enough to move on the state festival, scheduled for March 11-12 at South Portland High School.
MDIHS had two big bands, Somes Sound and Big Group, and four combos performing at the festival. Many of the musicians received individual musicianship awards for their solos on various tunes.
The high school’s top big band, Big Group received a I rating from the judges, the highest honor. Groups receiving I and II ratings go on to the state festival.
Big Group performed Thad Jones’ “Tip Toe,” Gil Evans’ arrangement of “My Ship” and Thelonius Monk’s “Epistrophy.” Hannah Edgecomb received a musicianship award for her trumpet feature on “My Ship,” according to director Michael Remy. Other Big Group members getting solo awards were guitarist Breaux Higgins, tenor saxophonist Simon Robertson, trombonists Lucas Wood and Zak Charette, and Ben Hagle, trumpet.
Somes Sound, the other big band, had two soloists garner awards, guitarist Ben Watson and drummer Dawson Burnett. The band received a II rating for its performances of Lennie Niehaus’ “Flashback,” the ballad “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” and the Ray Noble warhorse “Cherokee.”
The six-piece combo RATWÖLF recently came home with high scores from the Berklee High School Jazz Festival in Boston. They outdid themselves here, garnering nearly perfect scores and a I rating, Remy said. Solo awards went to Wood, Higgins, Robertson, drummer Kevin Elk and Megan Howell, who soloed on three instruments, alto saxophone, flute and piano. Bassist Will Miller did not solo. The combo performed “Dear Tucci,” “Flim” and “One Month.”
Nonet actually has 10 and not nine members.
“That’s the inside joke,” Remy said.
The combo received a I rating for its performances of Sonny Rollins’ “Tenor Madness,” the standard “Angel Eyes” and Horace Silver’s “Opus De Funk.” Solo awards were to Camden Garland, piano and guitar; Ezekiel Valleau, alto saxophone; Josh Bloom, trumpet; Avery Lavalle, bass; and Seth Clark, drums.
The high school’s other two combos, Sketchy Marmot and Beeeeeees, are directed respectively by Matt Lawson and Gene Gill.
Sketchy Marmot received a I rating. Hagle, Charette, Watson, Higgins on bass, alto saxophonist Matt Cox, and drummer Dawson Burnett received solo awards for their playing on Joe Henderson’s “Recorda-me,” the Miles Davis classic “Blue in Green” and John Coltrane’s “Moment’s Notice.”
Beeeeeees received a II rating for its performances of “Tangerine,” Errol Garner’s ever-popular “Misty” and “It’s Alright (Why You Gotta),” a tune by Stephen Colbert’s bandleader, Jean Baptiste. Vocalist Thistle Swan, trombonist Pierce Vincenty, tenor saxophonist Annie Painter, bassist Chase McGee, drummer Kendrew Van Gorder, pianist Emerson Jeffrey and Edgecomb on trumpet all received solo awards.
The festival is a competition, but the students aren’t necessarily competitive, Remy said. The important aspect is performing and sharing their music with the public.