Jazz Never Sleeps

p { margin-bottom: 0.08in; } It’s six thirty-five in the morning in the Dimond High Fine Arts Hall, and any sane person ought to be in bed. Strangely, however, the place isn’t entirely deserted. A select few students are trudging into the band room and warming up their instruments, baited by the promise of a musical experience that simply can’t be had at any reasonable time of day. Jazz, it seems, never sleeps. That, at least, is the idea behind the Dimond Jazz Band, which meets at six thirty in the morning every weekday to kick things off with some swing. Participation in the band is classified as an additional class, giving jazz musicians a schedule with seven lines of print, the first listed as period “zero.” Other perks, by definition, include access to a proximal parking space, an abundant supply of tunes to have stuck in your head all day and, of course, the opportunity for passionate band students to work together to produce musical performances of a high caliber in a more modern, energetic style. In fact, this year’s jazz band members received an even more exclusive performance opportunity, as the band travelled to Fairbanks in early April to perform in a jazz festival attended by multiple jazz bands from throughout Alaska. Band members enjoyed playing some jazz as well as spending more time getting to know fellow musicians from Dimond and other parts of the state. Meet Kade Bissell, Senior and longtime drummer in the Dimond Jazz Band. Bissell began drumming in the fifth grade when he began experimenting with a old snare drum that he found lying around at his grandparent’s place. He soon began taking lessons on snare and later on drum set, and participated in the jazz band at Mears Middle School in eighth grade before joining the Dimond Jazz Band the following year. Jazz Band is a fun class for Bissell because “I get to drum in a band with many other musicians I know, which is cool”. Another Senior in the band is Alex Ripley, the lead alto saxophone player. Ripley’s relationship with the alto sax began with the obligatory trip to the Music Man in sixth grade, where the complex appearance of the saxophone interested him. The support of his father, who also played the saxophone in his youth, sealed Ripley’s future with this reed instrument. A textbook overachiever, Ripley quickly became to most skilled sax player in his grade, and thrived in the jazz band at Mears Middle School, where he was a frequent soloist and was awarded for his contributions. Ripley says he enjoys being in the Dimond Jazz Band because it “allows me to continue playing jazz music, and I have a lot of fun improvising and taking solos in front of an audience.” The jazz band performed three pieces at the Fairbanks jazz festival, titled “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Count Bubba’s Revenge” and “Moanin’.” The first is a fast swing tune featuring solos by senior Katie Kampen on piano and junior James Homsley on tenor saxophone. “Count Bubba’s Revenge” is a more challenging swing piece, with multiple soli sections exclusively featuring the saxophone, trombone and trumpet sections. Finally, “Moanin’” wraps things up with some mayhem, containing extensive solo sections for the baritone saxophone played by Freshman Clifford Roberts, as well as several parts where multiple instruments are improvising simultaneously. Peter King, an amatuer jazz enthusiast, says that this song reminds him of “the tears of an elephant that originate from its sighting of a stillborn mouse.” Obviously, an hour or two of sleep a day is a worthy sacrifice for participation in such a performance, at least for this bunch of musicians.