Student jazz combos feature three bands, bring lively music to campus before finals

On Tuesday April 27, the Lewis & Clark jazz combos performed their final show under direction by Instructor of Jazz Guitar and Instructor of Jazz Combos Dan Balmer ’81. Balmer initiated the transition from a big band style to jazz combos as a student in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

“I’ve been a jazz musician all my life, I’m a professional musician, I taught workshops in Argentina, I taught workshops in Barcelona, I’ve lectured at USC (University of Southern California),” Balmer said. “This is what I do … It means everything … It’s like I said in the intro, playing music and teaching music are the only things I understand.

Fabián Guerrero ’23, saxophonist for combo Jazzus Christ, had an experience that paralleled LC’s transition from larger group performances to the more intimate combos.

“I used to play in a lot of large ensembles,” Guerrero said. “Because there are a lot less people, the individual takes a larger role and you have to trust yourself.”

 The event commenced with Balmer introducing himself. After that, the first band, The Swingerz came out. The combo featured a clarinet, electric bass, piano, drums, trombone, alto saxophone and guitar. The band had two first years and mostly sophomores, who delivered a variety of engaging songs, representing the future of the program.

The Swingerz opened the show with a fun uptempo rendition of Joe Zawinul’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” that retained the swelling choral reprise, while tucking saxophone, trombone and piano solos in between.

After them came the quintuplet Concerned Dans of Fan Dalmer, which featured saxophone, guitar, bass, drums and vocals. Three members were seniors delivering their final combo performance at LC. The group showed off their experience, with communicative numbers including an energetic acoustic bass solo that kept the audience hooked despite dropping to a whisper and a closing solo from drummer Charlie Oakes ’23 — who Balmer called “the best drummer we’ve ever had” — that relied heavily on cowbell.

One of the combo’s stand out works was “Just You Just Me / Evidence” by Jesse Greer (arranged by Ella Fitzgerald) and Thelonious Monk respectively. It was introduced by the vocalist Kyra Jorgensen ’26, who ambiguously called the piece a sandwich. 

After the piece, she explained the metaphor.

“The reason that song was a sandwich, I will now elaborate, is because ‘Just You Just Me’ written by Jesse Greer had a certain harmonic progression that Thelonious Monk also used in his song ‘Evidence,’ and so he decided to make an Evidence sandwich with ‘Just You Just Me’ as the Bread and ‘Evidence’ as the meat,” Jorgensen said.

Before the final combo came out, vocalist Charlotte Ostrov ’24 and the final group’s guitarist came out to perform one song, Wardell Gray’s “Twisted,” with Concerned Dans of Fan Dalmer’s bassist and drummer. Ostrov, who was not officially a part of any combo, appreciated the opportunity to perform.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to get to work with such incredible musicians,” Ostrov said. “It’s a career motivating opportunity for us, it means a lot. We really appreciate Dan’s work.”

 The last combo, Jazzus Christ, received a complementary clarifying introduction from Balmer.

“They just came up with this name yesterday and I want you to know they came up with it themselves,” Balmer said.

The band featured a saxophone, trumpet, piano, drums, standup bass, guitar and vocals and provided an energetic close to the concert. One song that stood out in particular  was their rendition of Oscar Pettiford’s “Tricotism.” The piece began with conversation between the saxophone and piano interrupted by chirps from the drums before transitioning into monologues from the other instruments interspersed by returns to the opening dialogue, before closing with a more expansive socratic dialogue between all of the introduced characters.  

At the end of the show, Balmer returned to the stage for closing remarks.

“It was a great show and the bands played beautifully. I think it was well worth everyone’s effort to be here,” Balmer said. “ … Best jazz night ever as we like to say. That’s my eighteenth year of ‘best jazz night ever’.”

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