I don’t pretend to understand Jazz. Okay, that’s a horrible lie. Sometimes, I totally pretend to understand Jazz. But, my pretense is only the result of longing to understand it so desperately. I yearn to get it, but, despite that desire, along with being a surgeon and an Olympian, it’s more than likely I’ll never achieve true understanding. My ignorance however, does not impede my ability in the least to thoroughly enjoy Nineteen, San Jose’s Premier Big Band Jazz Band.
I recently caught a concert of theirs at the Theatre on San Pedro Square and was pleasantly delighted by the experience despite always initially feeling like a musical misfit in a Jazz setting. I don’t know how they do it, but Nineteen makes you simultaneously feel knowledgeable and like family. With a fun and relaxed “it’s all good” attitude, you can check your snobbery at the door and just enjoy some great musicianship.
The reasons to check Nineteen out are really unlimited, but I’ve compiled a handful that will hopefully inspire you to get you out for a Jazz sampling from this just under 20 melodic collective.
And, 5, 6, 7, 8…
1) Exposure (in the totally appropriate way, thank- you- very –much.) Truly a versatile group, the band pulls together a diverse repertoire with a little something for everyone. While certainly they select a majority of Big Band style songs, it’s a small majority and there’s plenty of other types of Jazz included. Classical Jazz, Scat, Improvisational, Latin, Blues, standards, Sinatra, Ellington, local original compositions, it’s an astounding display of variety and an education in the process. With vocals, guitars and even bongos accompanying the 19 piece band, even the most novice of Jazz audience members is able to stay engaged with the exciting variety.
2) Freedom to Appreciate. Unlike the Symphony, you can clap just about any time you want and no one is going to give you the stink eye. Jazz is cool like that. You’re encouraged to show your enthusiasm and support whenever and almost however you like. You can be an unabashed trendsetter by clapping, whistling and whooping your appreciation, and by doing so you’ll most likely lead others to express themselves too.
3) Impressive Local Representation. From Rick Vandivier, Nate Pruitt and Wayne Wallace to Anton Schwartz, Gordon Goodwin and Juanita Harris, the local guest artist lineups are impressive. Even a virtual Jazz ignoramus like me can recognize many of these names and appreciate the clout they hold within the Jazz Community. Nineteen has celebrity pull and not only are you experiencing a fantastic ensemble in their own right, you’re gifted an excellent ancillary artist or two each time you attend a performance.
4) The Dashing Factor. When do you get to see suits and ties these days? Casual California, I love you, I’ll rock the flip flops until the day I die, but it never hurts to see more guys in suits, ties and bitchin’ hats. The cats in this band dress the part, shiny shoes and all. It’s eye candy to accompany your ear candy and candy is sweet! (and, the chicks rodck the style too.)
5) Conducting on the Stealth. Like the Mark Zuckerberg of Jazz Conducting our band leader is so nonchalant its genius. He’s there to start them off and then he wanders about letting them do their thing. That’s how good this band is. That’s how in synch they are. So tight, even an aside or a joke from the conductor as he weaves his way back for the big finale doesn’t throw them off. They’re competency is matched by their enjoyment and that contagious element feeds the audience even more.
6) Supporting Careers. From early 20 something prodigies to mature masters of their craft, this band is local and being paid directly from ticket sales. You are supporting musicians at all stages of their craft and helping them to be career musicians. Helping talented people make a living doing what they love is a symbiotic reward that individual patronage affords and Nineteen is a fine example of deserved recipients.
7) Drinks for Donations. The bar at the Theatre on San Pedro Square is nearly fully stocked now (though there’s nothing on tap with only a handful of bottled beers) and the prices are affordable. Light snacks, brie plates and sweets are served as well and a portion of the entire bar proceeds go to great local charities. It’s a great way to relax and a good move karmically to drink for a cause!
8) Art for the Ages. The intergenerational component of the audience was refreshing. Elementary school kids to octogenarians attend and enjoy this group. These concerts are entertaining and a super opportunity to spend time with friends and family, but also a great teaching tool for any age.
9) Game of Thrones. The theatre has the most comfortable seats in any venue in the South Bay. I’m surprised more people don’t try to purchase these chairs. Seriously, I love sitting and not squirming or repositioning every 2 minutes. I love not elbowing fellow patrons or being elbowed myself. I like leg room too. It’s a very concert-conducive seating arrangement allowing for toe tapping and drink holding.
10) Gus Makes Faces. No it’s not the name of a trio (though it could be) but when the band leader isn’t conducting, he’s playing bass (just one example of the versatility of this group) and when he does, he goes to that special musician face making place. If you were to record him playing and slow it down it would probably go viral. It’s seriously worth seeing live.
Don’t refrain from attending a concert I say, as it’s an enthusiastic 4 ½ out of 5 jewels in the review tiara for this motley crew of fabulous musicians that break the Jazz barrier with their inviting and animated style. In addition to their full 2013 season of concerts, Nineteen is currently burning up the stage with their high-caliber musicianship through December 16th with The Tabard Theater Company’s Big Band Christmas Surprise. Presenting more than 15 of the holiday songs of the 30 plus in their repertoire, and featuring special guests singers and readers each performance, no two shows will be the same and I wager you’ll be itching to return multiple times throughout the run.