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A high school jazz program that shines

May 11, 2012|By Kirk Silsbee
  • The LACHSA Jazz Ensemble performing in Monterey. The jazz group, directed by Jason Goldman, and Vocal Jazz Choir, directed by Pat Bass, perform Wednesday at the Alex Theatre in Glendale.
The LACHSA Jazz Ensemble performing in Monterey. The… (Courtesy of LACHSA )

The recent decision to expunge jazz from Doug McIntyre's morning show on KABC radio — in a purported move to enlarge the show's audience — has stirred passions around the Southland.

Playboy Jazz Festival publicist Nina Gordon is surprised by the move. “It's ironic that they did that so close to International Jazz Day,” she says, “where the world honors jazz. It's tremendously popular all over the world, and very popular in L.A.

“There's a bigger taste for jazz here than most people realize,” she continues. “You see it in the many school jazz bands. Each day at Playboy Jazz starts off with a high school big band, and they're always a big hit with the audience.”

One of the most recognized high school jazz programs in SoCal is at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, which opened at Playboy Jazz in 2009. Under the direction of Jason Goldman, the LACHSA big band has won the Monterey Jazz Festival's Next Generation competition an unprecedented four years in a row. It appears that there are high school jazz programs, and then there's the LACHSA jazz program.


Aside from dual faculty positions at LACHSA and the USC Thornton School of Music, Goldman is an accomplished composer/arranger whose clients have included Herbie Hancock and Michael Bublé. He will lead the LACHSA Big Band on Wednesday at Glendale's Alex Theatre.

Impresario and jazz activist Barbara Brighton produces her monthly Young Artists Jazz Series night at Catalina's in Hollywood (now in its 16th year), and she's seen Goldman and his LACHSA crew in action.

“They play every year for my anniversary show,” Brighton offers. “Jason always brings fine players who are headed for Berklee School of Music and other colleges on scholarships; the quality of his players is consistently high. What really impresses me is how well his bands work as teams. They all pull for each other, when they play together and when somebody takes a solo.”

A YouTube video of last year's LACHSA Big Band at the Monterey Jazz Next Generation Jazz Festival shows Goldman leading the band. They play a chart called “Make Me Smile” by jazz composer Bob Brookmeyer. It's an Expressionist piece with wide swaths of orchestral color over demanding time signatures, and a feature for alto saxophonist Jasper Dutz. He executes beautifully — making tight turns, jumping wide intervals and exhibiting a sharp-edge tone.

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