More than 35 jazz bands from Southern California middle schools and high schools attended Super Jazz at the Ranch on Saturday, May 22. Bob Babko, Director of Jazz Studies at West Ranch, and jazz band boosters, June and Dave Downs organized the many jazz boosters who helped with the day’s activities. This is the 14th Super Jazz festival, and is one of the major fundraising activities for the jazz bands at West Ranch High School.
Local jazz bands who participated in the event included Rancho Pico Junior High, which earned a 3rd place award and La Mesa Junior High which earned 2nd place. Competing in the Intermediate Morning category, Saugus High School placed first, Hart placed second, and Canyon placed third. Valencia High School competed in the Intermediate Afternoon category and placed first, while Golden Valley High School earned a 3rd place award. Valencia High School also had a combo which placed first in the Novice combo division.
Because it was the host school, the West Ranch Lab Jazz Band and Studio A Jazz Band did not compete, but the Studio A band earned first place in the Heavy Division (the highest division) at the Workman High School competition on May 15, and both bands have won awards in jazz festivals this spring.
Super Jazz also featured the debut of the Hart District All -Stars. Members from all Hart District jazz bands auditioned for a place in this band which was directed by well-known arranger Tom Kubis. All high schools were represented in the All-Stars band.
In addition to Kubis, the following illustrious jazz personalities participated as judges and clinicians: Tom Peterson (sax); David Roitstein (Director, Jazz Studies, Cal Arts); Tom Scott (renowned composer, arranger, producer and saxophonist); Bob Sheppard (saxophonist with The Peter Erskine Trio and formerly with Chick Corea and many others); Gary Solt (Associate Dean of the Baccalaureate program at L.A.’s Musician’s Institute); Charley Davis (trumpeter who has played with Woody Herman, Bob Florence, Buddy Rich, Michael Buble, Barry Manilow, and more); Les Hooper (composer, arranger, sound designer for t.v., movies, commercials); Joel Leach (26 year director of Cal State Northridge’s prestigious jazz band, current Professor of the Music Industry Studies program at CSUN, and former president of the International Association for Jazz Education); and finally, Don Menza, whose endless list of credits includes solos with the bands of Buddy Rich and Louis Bellson, and who has collaborated with Elvin Jones, Keely Smith and many more.
The exhibition band included keyboardist Jeff Babko (Jimmy Kimmel Live, James Taylor, Sheryl Crow, Robben Ford, TOTO, Larry Carlton, etc.); Drummer Tom Brechtlein (Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Al Di Meola, Jean Luc Ponty, Robben Ford and more); Jimmy Johnson on bass (James Taylor, Allan Holdsworth, Stan Getz, , Rod Stewart, etc.); Saxophonist Bob Sheppard (Peter Erskine, Chick Corea, Freddie Hubbard, Randy Brecker, etc.); and Jacques Voyemant on trombone (Bruce Lofgren, Buddy Childers, Clare Fischer, Johnny Mandeo, Poncho Sanchez, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Al Jarreau, etc.)
A special performance by the CSUN Latin Jazz Band held in the amphitheatre was also enjoyed by those in attendance.
West Ranch principal Bob Vincent enjoyed all of the day’s events, and commented, “I am so proud of each of our musicians and their commitment to jazz. Jazz education remains an important part of our school’s curriculum, and we are appreciative of the sacrifices that have been made to continue this important work. …and especially thanks to all of the parents who have given of their time and energy to make this day a special time…”
You can support the award-winning Wildcat Jazz program by purchasing their cd which will be available on June 19 for $10, and by attending next year’s Super Jazz at the Ranch on May 21, 2011. Contact Bob Babko at email@example.com  for information on cds and Wildcat Jazz.