This past weekend, the Azusa Pacific University Jazz Ensemble competed against Citrus College’s Blue Note Swing Orchestra in the 13th Annual Battle of the Big Bands.
The two-night event is hosted annually by Citrus College in the Robert Haugh Performing Arts Center, a 1,440-seat theater located in the heart of the Citrus College campus.
Under the direction of David Beatty, the APU Jazz Ensemble battled Citrus College’s Blue Note Swing Orchestra with a variety of old and new jazz tunes. The directors of both bands, as well as staff members for the event created a fun and exuberant atmosphere for the band members, audience members and everyone involved.
Eric Croissant, saxophone player for APU’s Jazz Ensemble explained the process of the show.
“We try to have a theme every year, and this year we’re doing a theme of old versus new. We showcase older, traditional music that people recognize like, ‘In the Mood’ and ‘Sing, Sing, Sing,’” Croissant said. “We try and counter that with some modern renditions. Overall, I really like the theme this year.”
The performance was split into two acts, with an intermission in the middle. Audience members had a chance to interact with the bands during the performance of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” a rendition with both bands playing together.
Video footage and special effects on the drop-down screen during certain songs served as featured elements in the portrayal of the music.
“The programming went above and beyond with what I thought the theme was going to be like when I first heard it,” Croissant said. “We’re going 100 miles per hour.”
The arrangement on stage drew the audience’s attention to both sides, with APU’s band on the left and Citrus College’s on the right. The two rhythm sections merged in the middle, with the pianos almost back to back. The setup rendered a competitive vibe on the stage and within the music as well.
Gloria, an audience member and parent of an APU musician, enjoyed the performance for its inspirational musicality.
“I think this music is awesome and inspirational for young people and older people as well,” Gloria said. “I like that it’s coming from a Christian education, and that it motivates the students.”
Accompanying the APU Jazz Ensemble was APU’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble. The group of eight singers graced the stage toward the end of the show. The ensemble is under the direction of Teryn McPherson, and the Battle of the Big Bands is considered to be one of the group’s biggest performances of the year.
The Blue Note Orchestra featured three vocal jazz artists who complemented three of their song renditions.
The variety of jazz tunes, both new and old, combining instruments and voices, created an atmosphere filled with articulate sound and exciting music. A number of standout performers, including the entire trombone line from both ensembles, captured the audience with their featured solos.
The event was a big success for audience member and APU music student Roxanne Watson.
“I thought the idea of old and new was a perfect way for both ensembles to show range and creativity,” Watson said. “The juxtaposition kept things exciting and the talent of the musicians was outstanding.”
Overall, the event united individuals young and old in a battle between two accredited ensembles consisting of talented musicians.
The quality of musicianship portrayed through each band member was a noteworthy opportunity for Azusa Pacific and Citrus to witness. Band directors encourage the community to join the bands this time next year for the 14th annual Battle of the Big Bands.