39th Annual Lakeland Jazz Festival: February 24-27, 2011
February 27: The Lakeland Civic Jazz Orchestra / MOJO: The Generations Big Band
The matinee on Sunday brought out two local big bands, both comprised of musicians spanning the generations. The Lakeland group is comprised of Lakeland Community College students and other musicians from the local community, under the direction of Dave Sterner, who also serves as the festival's co-director. On this afternoon, the jovial bunch ran through eight Sammy Nestico compositions, distinguished by the sprightly rhythms of Troy Creagh's Fender Strat and allowing for ample soloing throughout the band.
MOJO's reach seems a bit more broad, as it finds chairs for everyone from the scully capped hipster to the white-haired granddad, the sweater-vested prof to the wunderkind student on his way to Berklee. Under the direction of the always energetic Matthew Bott, the band hit the usual suspectsEllington, Thad Jones, Benny Goodman, even Sammy Nesticobut also made room for Wayne Shorter's "Yes or No." Tenor saxophonists Johnny Cochran and Jevon Bogart, and altoist Keith McKelly were granted a lot of solo time, the tenors favoring bop runs, the alto man blowing mean soul. Trumpeter Mike Hazlett provided a nice arrangement of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," while trombonists Chris Anderson and Sam Blakeslee traded inventive solos on Nestico's "The Plunger." Both bands supplied all the oomph, blare and danceable melodies one could ask for on a chilly Sunday afternoon. Their playing was a fitting close to this little Northeast Ohio festival that can.