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Joint concert

February 23, 2002

raising funds for students

By BRIAN McNEECE, Special to this newspaper

What happens when you mix Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer and Manhattan Transfer?

You get Valley Jazz and the Imperial Valley Choral Society bursting the boundaries of the stage with music from the Big Band era.

This afternoon, Big Band and Big Choir swing when Jimmie Cannon's stellar group combines with Linda Brown's chorale and Chamber Singers for a special concert to raise money for local music students.

This ensemble, rarely seen, will perform at Southwest Performing Arts Theatre at 4 this afternoon. Tickets are $10 at the box office for open seating.

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Proceeds will provide scholarships for deserving music students around the Imperial Valley.

Aficionados of the resurging local music scene will want their regular dose of the tight, punchy sounds of the brassy Valley Jazz. But this time, they also hear Linda Brown's Master Chorale and Chamber Singers create a smooth cascade of swing and jazz music of the ages.

The ambitious program covers 23 songs in various configurations of the 20-player Valley Jazz and 70 singers.

The full ensemble shows great stylistic range. From the smooth and creamy "Satin Doll" and "Moonglow" to the uptempo "All or Nothing at All," and "Chattanooga Choo-choo," director Linda Brown has cooked her chorale into a 70-voice roux.

Back in the '70s, the singing group Manhattan Transfer broke new musical ground with intricate harmonies that preserved their individual voices and personalities. Imagine the daunting task of taking a big band's need for a strong vocal personality and dividing it by 70. It works.

Sit close. No matter what your age or tastes, there's a jazz singer for you in the crowd.

For the Big Band purist looking for a powerful lady singing up front, Julie Popejoy doesn't disappoint. Singing solo with Valley Jazz, she gives us "Blue Skies" and "Tangerine," but shows the most textural range on Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child."

Valley Jazz shows its stuff on its own in this varied program, especially on "Blues in the Night," a tune that evokes late night street-corner struttin'. Mark Mordasini on trombone, Sal Ortiz on trumpet, Mark Rasmussen on saxophone, and Van Decker on guitar pull down the solos.

Director Jimmie Cannon rarely puts himself in the spotlight, preferring instead to feature his many fine musicians — who the audience should know comprise most of the school band directors and music teachers from around the Valley.

However, in the complex "Lover Man," Cannon picks up his trumpet and subtlely takes the audience through the most intricate and moody piece of the night.

The 14-voice Imperial Valley Chamber Singers work out with the band on four tunes, including "Sentimental Journey," "Bésame Mucho," "Shoo-fly Pie," and "Java Jive." Look for Linda Brown herself to join the group on one piece. The Chamber Singers work best in the trembling, languid passion of the Latin standard "Bésame Mucho."

Jim Thompson and Julie Seymour croon Glenn Miller's "Moonlight Serenade."

On "Tuxedo Junction" Anita Slobig belts out a solo Southern style — with an attitude. Sharon Cordero is featured on "How Deep is the Ocean"; Sharon Taylor on "All Right, OK, You Win."

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