Luther College Jazz Band, Ben Ostrem soloist

Jazzing the Night Away: Luther College Jazz Band and SuperLutherSax Combo Wows Campus Crowd

The Luther College Jazz Band, under the direction of Jon Ailabouni, gave a solid performance Saturday evening, April 29, 2017, in the Center for Faith and Life on campus in Decorah, Iowa. The eight-member SuperLutherSax ensemble also entertained the audience with three jazz standards.

An excellent video of the entire performance is available at Luther College’s website; just click the link below:

Luther College Jazz Band Performance April 29, 2017

The performance opened with the bouncy tune Moose the Mooche written by Charlie Parker and arranged by Lennie Niehaus. This melody featured the five-member-strong saxophone section, consisting of Ben Rieckhoff (lead alto), Kate Roberson (second alto), Joshua Jones (first tenor), Elizabeth Wiebke (second tenor), and Elizabeth Primmer (baritone) and also spotlighted soloists Oliver Leafblad on trumpet and Joshua Jones on tenor sax.


Jon Ailabouni directs the Luther College Jazz Band, Joshua Jones tenor sax on end
Jon Ailabouni directs the Luther College Jazz Band, Joshua Jones on tenor sax in center

Next up was a Duke Ellington selection, Oclupaca (Acapulco written backwards), the second movement in Ellington’s Latin American suite, which began with percussion and piano and featured soloists Bethany Larson on piano and Elizabeth Wiebke on tenor sax. The student musicians really aced this low and rhythmic Latin jazz number.

The jazz standard There is No Greater Love, written by Marty Symes and Isham Jones and arranged by Eric Richards, featured Ben Ostrem on trombone, Leo Naughton Herbach on vibraphone, and Ben Rieckhoff on alto sax. I enjoyed seeing the trombones and trumpets use their mutes at the beginning of this piece.

Soloist Rieckhoff on alto saxophone
Soloist Rieckhoff on alto saxophone

Director Ailabouni explained that the next piece, Flirt, by Bill Holman, was written for the Count Basie Orchestra. Soloists Oliver Leafblad on trumpet and Joshua Jones on tenor sax added to the languid sultry beat kept by bassist Vaughan Schmidt.

The Jazz Band’s first set closed with The Peanut Vendor, a lively piece written by Moises Simons and arranged by Stan Kenton and Pete Rugolo. Director Ailabouni said that the piece was Stan Kenton Orchestra’s signature tune and called to mind Cuban peanut sellers’ chants for “Peanuts.” Because the piece called for five trumpets Director Ailabouni joined the trumpet lineup. Featured soloists were Brad Kovocovich on guitar, Ben Ostrem and Kenny Goins on trombone, Leo Naughton Herbach on percussion, and Race Fisher on drum set. This piece showcased the trumpets in a dissonant melody reminiscent of many voices yelling at the same time, and the drum dual by Race Fisher and Leo Naughton Herbach was particularly fun.

The eight members of the SuperLutherSax combo took the stage for the next three numbers. The ensemble is coached by Lynn and Peter Hart, and consists of David Blackstad (lead alto sax), Kate Wyre (second alto sax), Kendra Peterson (first tenor sax), Peter Mathistad (second tenor sax), Ben Ostrem (baritone sax), Pablo Gomez Estevez (piano), Zach Ryerson (bass), and Aidan Schmitt (drum set). The combo first played Blue ‘N’ Boogie by Dizzy Gillespie and Frank Paparelli and arranged by Med Flory. Next up was the familiar tune Caravan, by Duke Ellington, Irving Mills, and Juan Tizol and arranged by Calvin Custer, which opened with the piano which was soon joined by the saxes in a harmonic melody. The combo concluded their set with Good Time Blues by Gene Ammons and arranged by Peter Hart. The saxes took turns soloing on all three numbers and I enjoyed the interplay between these talented reed players.


Luther College's SuperLutherSax Combo
Luther College’s SuperLutherSax Combo

The Jazz Band again took center stage for a trio of classic and memorable pieces. Farewell, written by Thad Jones and arranged by Mike Carubia, featured Kate Roberson on flute, Ben Ostrem on trombone, and Joshua Jones on tenor Sax. Director Ailabouni said that Thad Jones wrote this song in commemoration of Louis Armstrong and it definitely brought to mind Satchmo’s joyful New Orleans’ jauntiness.

This was followed by the familiar melody of A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, written by Eric Maschwitz and Manning Sherwin and arranged by Frank Mantooth. Jordan Anderson on bass trombone opened the piece, and the melody was echoed by Robbie Nesmith on trumpet until the close of the piece where the two instruments played in unison. This was an excellent arrangement and certainly showcased the soloists’ mellow tones and impressive technical skills.

The evening’s performance closed with Charles Mingus’ Fables of Faubus, arranged by Steve Slagle. The director explained that Mingus wrote this to protest Arkansas Governor Orville Faubus’ use of National Guard troops to stop segregation in the schools. Joshua Jones on tenor saxophone was the featured soloist and the senior reedman certainly shone in his extended bit of improvisation.

What a fabulous jazz concert this proved to be, with a broad selection of classic jazz standards served up with the musicians’ unique take on the music! To be able to enjoy this music free of charge was a very real treat.

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