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On The Corner Masthead


May 9, 2017 | by Erin Putnam

 This past Sunday, May 7th, was the final performance of the 2016-17 High School All-Stars in SFJAZZ’s Miner Auditorium, and from guest artists, to world premieres, to scholarships awarded, it was an amazing event.

The High School All-Stars Combo kicked things off with Jasim Perales’s “Separation Anxiety,” a larger-than-life tune showcasing the composer’s incredible facility on trombone. Further down the program was trumpet player Kate Williams’s arrangement of “Milestones,” which just last month took the DownBeat Student Music Award for Best Arrangement.

 After the intermission, the Big Band took the stage with SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director Mary Stallings, performing two jewels that the vocalist hand-selected from her touring repertoire with the Count Basie Orchestra. The Big Band then recognized special guest Owen Clapp, winner of the 2017 Hut Foundation Alumni Commission Award, presented by SFJAZZ. The 2009 graduate of the All-Stars program composed “Tokyo,” a jazz tone poem of the metropolis, specifically for the All-Stars Big Band, taking into mind its unique inclusion of two baritone saxes and flute, as well as adding non-western percussion. If you missed the premiere, you can hear it on the All-Stars’ 2016-17 double album, out this summer.

Nearing the close of the performance, the program’s annual awards were given out to a select few ensemble members. Directors Dann Zinn (Combo) and Paul Contos (Big Band) gave achievement awards in three categories: Outstanding Growth, Outstanding Dedication, and Superior Musicianship. These awards went to Kate Williams (Growth), Solomon Alber and Timoteo Cruz (Dedication), and Jasim Perales (Musicianship). The program’s one funding award, the SFJAZZ Education Award, is voted on by the members of the All-Stars. The $1000 scholarship toward the selected member's musical growth – be it college tuition, materials, private lessons, or an instrument upgrade – is decided by their peers, and rewards not only talent and technique, but also attitude and application. This year’s SFJAZZ Education Award went to the only musician who has ever been admitted to the High School All-Stars program as a middle schooler – and therefore has been not only a member, but a leader of the ensemble for five whole years – trombonist Jasim Perales.

Closing out the concert with a second encore, Charles Mingus’s seismic “Gunslinging Bird,” the All-Stars Big Band reminded audience members – from honored donors to young hopefuls and special guests – just how alive and kicking jazz is. Perhaps it was the fact that this year’s 24-person ensemble is comprised of no fewer than 20 graduating seniors (more than any other year since the program’s inception), but the passion evident in the show’s final fling had the Center vibrating long after its last notes. Such is the feeling these incredible young musicians leave us with even after they enter the wide world. Congratulations 2016-17 All-Stars, and thank you for your incredible artistry!