Greg Yee/The Daily Times
Greg Yee/The Daily Times (Jon Austria)
FARMINGTON — San Juan College's Jazz Band put on an artful, nuanced performance that tackled everything from latin-infused jazz to hard bop to the blues Thursday evening at the Henderson Fine Arts Performance Hall.

Jazz, unfortunately, is often dismissed as abstract, or even worse pigeon-holed as "smooth jazz."

Keith Cochrane, the college's instrumental music program director, put together an engaging array of songs and has brought together a truly talented group of local musicians.

Audience members Thursday evening could not help but tap their feet. The night, already filled with cheers and clapping, ended with a standing ovation.

The concert opened with a rendition of "Los Hijos de Sanchez," by Chuck Magione featuring David Bushman on solo trumpet and Tony Evans on solo guitar.

Bushman's trumpet playing captured Magione intent and added more body.

The concert's first half ramped up with some audience participation on the Dizzy Gillespie bebop tune "Salt Peanuts," and came to a rousing concluding with selections of songs from the "Blues Brothers," movie.

The second half opened with a saxophone quartet tribute to Christmas in a jazzy version of "Jingle Bells."

The next song featured some of the best trumpet playing in the concert on Maynard Ferguson's rendition of the "Sesame Street" theme song.

Ferguson was a legendary Canadian trumpet player and big band leader from the 1940s until he died in 2006. He was especially famous for being able to play accurately and in tune in a very high register; no easy feat on an instrument as physically demanding as the trumpet.


College jazz band trumpeter Delbert Anderson hit all of Ferguson's high notes with jaw-dropping ease.

A swinging rendition of Van Morrison's "Moondance," followed "Sesame Street," provided a relaxing interlude. It featured David Bushman on trumpet and Xinyu Yang on alto saxophone.

"Fernando's Getaway," by Cuban American composer Victor Lopez brought catchy latin rhythms and melodies back.

The next piece, "Superbone and the Bad Man," by Reggie Watkins showcased the band's trombones and baritone saxaphone.

"Superbone," was followed by a Cole Porter classic, "Every Time We Say Goodbye," with Gary Leonhard on tenor saxophone.

Thursday's night's concert closer featured a special performer. Farmington High School Senior Xinyu Yang on alto saxophone playing "Tank!" from the movie "Cowboy Bebop."

The song opens with a catchy bass riff that leads into the theme introduced by the trombones.

Yang's alto playing was the highlight of that piece. The lead alto is not only put front and center, but contains difficult harmonic notes requiring meticulous breath control and technique by the player.

The jazz band was striking, not only in its music, but in its setup.

Most jazz bands put the saxophones out front, trombones behind, trumpets in the back and the rhythm section off on stage right.

This band's drums are front and center with guitar, piano and bass on either side. The rest of the sections are laid out behind the rhythm section in a large semi-circle.

The setup captured the spirit of what a jazz band should be. It put rhythm at the heart of Thursday's performance.