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Jane Bunnett at Wilde Lake High School

"Once the prevailing popular music of the land, [jazz] has shrunk to a mere 2 percent of the market. Yet this venerable art form refuses to grow old and fade away. And if, as author Gerald Early has said, America's three great contributions to the world are the Constitution, baseball and jazz, then it's time jazz was better known in the land where it was born." So writes Matt Schudel in November's Washington Post Book World. Under these circumstances, any way to successfully present this music should be encouraged. An enterprising band teacher has hit on one solution.

Lewis Dutrow runs the band program at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Maryland, about an hour away from Washington D.C. Marshaling the energy and support of both the school and the parents of his band members, Dutrow raises funds to present periodic concerts featuring major jazz artists along with his jazz ensemble. Seemingly fond of flutists, he has so far featured Dave Valentin and, last October, Jane Bunnett. There were two shows, on a Saturday evening and Sunday a Sunday afternoon. Each was a great success in terms of both attendance and musical quality.

To open the show, Wilde Lake's Jazz Ensemble was given a chance to shine on two numbers. "S'Wonderful" featured Buddy Parks on alto sax and the trumpet of Rachel McGrain and was followed by "Federal Blues" with a succession of soloists: Michael Kappert, alto sax; Billy Dougherty, vibes; Neal Rivera, trombone; Zach Brown on bass and J.P. Allera on tenor. The band was then joined by Jane Bunnett and husband Larry Cramer for "Grenada Smoothie," which also featured Allera and Parks plus Nathaniel Shipp on trumpet. (Let me also mention Eliza Fishbein on baritone, Adam Rubin on trumpet, Naomi Sheinerman on tenor and Robert Finucane on piano who stepped to take solos during the previous evening's performance.)

The rest of the show belonged to Jane. It is some measure of the success of the Wilde Lake program that one of its alumni, Alex Brown, appeared with Bunnett, playing piano and violin. Along with Jane on soprano sax and flute, Larry Cramer on trumpet and flugelhorn, the quintet was rounded out by two D.C. musicians, bassist Pepe Gonzalez and drummer Nasar Abadey. They presented a program that drew on all of Jane's influences and interests. They opened with a Don Pullen composition, "Big Alice," with Jane's flute voiced with Cramer's muted trumpet, moved on to some Ellingtonia with "Purple Gazell" with soprano, flugelhorn and violin, (a great Brown solo!). The program unfolded with several pieces reflecting Jane's involvement with Cuban music, from Cuban Odyssey and Alma de Santiago. As another change of pace, a version of Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Serenade To A Cuckoo," with Jane doing the humming-into-the-flute thing to great effect.

It was a great set, in fact a highly enjoyable show. I am sure that many of the people there were fairly new to jazz, but artists like Jane Bunnett and Dave Valentin can bring along an audience without compromising musical quality. Hats off to Wilde Lake High and Lewis Dutrow. There is no reason why high schools all over the country could not duplicate his success.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Jane Bunnett
  • Concert Date: 10/1/2005
  • Venue: Wilde Lake High School
  • City State Country: Columbia Maryland
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