Spaghetti under the Stars: Annual Jazz Night Concert Shines Bright


Tyler Kim

Saxophonist and sophomore River Bridson performs a solo during the song “After Sunset” by Larry Neeck played by Jazz II. The jazz program is split into two groups: Jazz I, the intermediate and advanced group led by instrumental music teacher Kyle Traska, and Jazz II, the beginner and intermediate group led by instrumental music teacher Desmond Stevens.

As the sun sets and the night sky emerges, intricately strung light bulbs illuminate the open-air amphitheater with a warm yellow glow. The elegant, all-black color-scheme blends seamlessly into the night as the rhythmic beat of a distant drum grows louder, soon accompanied by the sultry sound of a saxophone and the deep resonance of a bass. The syncopated rhythm weaves through the air, creating a sophisticated and alluring atmosphere that captivates the audience.

Jazz I and II held their annual Jazz Night—featuring a total of 10 different jazz pieces—in the amphitheater on April 21. The event provided a spaghetti dinner for those who attended as a way to build community between guests, according to bassist and junior Inika Joshi. 

“I think that is something that makes the jazz night concert unique, because it’s more inviting, and you can eat dinner and then sit and watch jazz,” Joshi said. “It brings people closer together because you can talk to others sitting with you while getting to experience the music being played.”

The concert repertoire ranged from the lively “Cottontail” (arranged by David Berger and performed by Jazz I) to the mellow “All Blues” (arranged by Michael Sweeny and performed by Jazz II). The concert also featured multiple soloists who not only displayed their technical skills but also their improvisational abilities, according to Jazz I teacher Kyle Traska. 

The climax of the event was the final performance of “Feels So Good,” which featured the only two seniors in the program: drummer Aleyna Luick and pianist Gavin Thornhill. Additionally, the song served as a mark of the progress the ensemble has made over the course of the year, according to baritone saxophonist and freshman Noa Stewart. 

“[‘Feels So Good’] is such a great jumping off tune because it’s a comfortable style, and jazz funk has a comfortable series of chord changes, which is important because there’s a lot that you can learn out of those,” Traska said. “The chord changes allow a lot of study that can be done in that theoretical side of it, and it’s just a fun tune to play.”

The outdoor format of the concert also gave the audience a more intimate experience with the performers compared to traditional, indoor theater concerts, according to Stewart. 

“As a freshman, it was cool to experience the overall energy of having an outdoor performance where you can have the crowd involved in the music,” Stewart said. “Also, taking a solo and hearing people’s live reactions to it was a pretty cool experience.”