By Ellen Chappelle
Jazz is alive and well in Edmonds! If you don’t believe that, you must have missed the 37th annual DeMiero Jazz Fest held last week at Edmonds Center for the Arts. Over 1,400 students from all over the Northwest came together for the much-anticipated festival, which, according to Artistic Director Dee Daniels, holds the goal of “reaching out, cradling, supporting, loving and nurturing students” through vocal jazz.
Edmonds’ own Frank DeMiero, long-time jazz musician and noted music educator, conductor and arranger, said Jazz Fest is dedicated to “making sure our young people get the opportunity to have an exemplary experience” and is designed to complement the hard work of music teachers, whom he “respects and admires so much.”
JazzReach, the daytime portion of the festival, offered multiple opportunities from Thursday through Saturday for participants to experience jazz. Performances by school and community groups received constructive critique by Jazz Fest faculty. Students attended master classes with the world-renowned New York Voices and vocal coach Dee Daniels, while local jazz vocalist Greta Matassa held solo vocal workshops.
This year also marked the return of the JazzReach in-school program. This program brings prominent visiting jazz educators and guest artists to local schools to give students an opportunity to meet and learn from professional jazz musicians.
The Jazz Fest evening program featured concert performances by the guest artists in a variety of collaborations with each other, as well as with local artists. Again this year, Bill Ramsay led the Kennelly Keys All-Star Big Band as they laid the foundation for Friday and Saturday night concerts.
The Saturday night concert, which played to a very appreciative audience of students and the public, also featured Edmonds Community College vocal group Soundsation and ECC’s jazz band along with professional artists Greta Matassa, Dee Daniels and the New York Voices.
The Kennelly Keys Big Band, along with the Randy Porter Trio, kicked off the night just right with their smokin’ hot sound. Soundsation added their buttery vocal blend and the Edmonds Community College Jazz Band kept all toes tapping.
Next up was Greta Matassa, who grew up in a local musical family and got her start at Soundsation Jazz Camp. With decades of singing and every possible vocal jazz award under her belt, she made it clear that she’s still a showstopper.
Dee Daniels did double duty as a performer and the evening’s Master of Ceremonies. It was clear that the students loved both her warm personality and her stunning four-octave range, with its varied colors from jazz to blues to gospel.
As the headlining act, the New York Voices did not disappoint. Beginning with Musical Director Darmon Meader’s fantastic arrangement of Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia,” the fab four of jazz wowed the crowd right out of the gate. And they were just getting started!
As the best vocal group on the planet (in this writer’s opinion), the Voices have amazing intonation, impeccable timing and can scat like nobody’s business. In fact, Meader may just be one of the very best scatters ever, whether singing or playing his saxophone. And the four unique voices – Kim Nazarian’s crisp soprano, Lauren Kinhan’s sultry alto, Darmon Meader’s bright tenor and Peter Eldridge’s round, rich bass – somehow blend seamlessly into one. Every pitch, every interval, every cut-off is spot-on, whether they’re singing jazz or one of Meader’s complex arrangements of a classic pop tune. And they still sound just as great today as they did when I first heard them 20 years ago.
One BBC reviewer said of the group, “Words like ‘sensational’ and ‘fantastic’ and ‘unbelievable’ top the list of those to be avoided until – that is – this evening, after listening to, and being blown away by, the distinctive sound and superb contemporary vocalization of a two-boy, two-girl vocal ensemble with the simple and easily remembered name: New York Voices. They are, unquestionably, the vocal giants of jazz and superb singers of swing, much deserving their worldwide recognition.”
Just when it couldn’t get any better, the evening ended with an encore where the Voices, Daniels and Matassa joined forces, performing a satisfying rendition of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross’ “Centerpiece,” bringing the cheering crowd to its feet, a fitting finish to an exciting Jazz Fest.
Who better to shape, instruct and encourage the next generation of vocalists? The New York Voices, along with Dee Daniels and Greta Matassa, under the umbrella of the DeMiero Jazz Fest, together created a wonderful and enriching opportunity for the Northwest’s musicians of tomorrow. And that benefits all of us.
To support this extraordinary musical experience for local youth, become a member of or make a donation to Friends of Frank DeMiero.
With a background in theatre and journalism, Ellen Chappelle is perfectly poised to cover the local arts scene for My Edmonds News. She also keeps busy writing and editing for artists and small businesses, publishing an informational site for dog owners and creating handcrafted jewelry. Please keep her posted about all things artistic in Edmonds by emailing her at [email protected].