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By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter
Why go to Boston when you can find superb jazz music right here in Medfield?
It was a question many had asked themselves during Blake Middle School and Medfield High School’s Jazz Night on May 4.
As if the two schools’ jazz players weren’t talented enough, saxophonist, vocalist, and composer Grace Kelly joined the students for each of their performances.
The evening’s concert began with the Blake Jazz Lab Band, directed by George Murphy. They performed a rock-inspired “Gospel John,” and also successfully tried a Latin-inspired song called “Caribbean Fever.” Murphy offered each student a solo – a brave opportunity that most of the middle school musicians took.
Grace joined the students on stage for “Ben’s Blues.” The students also demonstrated their courage in front of an audience of over 500 community members as they improvised with Grace, a Brookline, Massachusetts native, on stage.
The Medfield High School Jazz Lab Combo exhibited their talent next. Directed by Ben Griffin, who could not make it to the concert, and Matt Stavrakas, the students played the upbeat “Doxy” from Sonny Rollins. They also played Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower” with Grace, featuring many students with improvised solos.
“I think these kids come in and do a great thing every day,” Stavrakas began. “Coming up to the band stand and improvising, you know, takes more courage than people can acknowledge.”
Despite their young age, students of the Blake Jazz Band, directed by Ryan Dexter, showed fantastic talent. They performed the Latin-inspired “La Noche Del Burrito Picante (The Night of the Spicy Burrito)” before inviting Grace to play with them for “Nostalgia in Times Square.” They also performed Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon,” which featured Grace on the saxophone and student Andie Brown on the koto, a Japanese strings instrument.
The Medfield High School Jazz Choir, directed by Ann Marie Tremblay, followed by delivering a fantastic performance. They began with The Real Group’s “Words,” an a cappella song, before inviting Grace back to the stage to perform “Autumn Leaves” with them. Grace accompanied them with the saxophone, and also offered some vocals herself, working in a compliment on how beautifully the students perform as she sang.
The Blake Jazz Choir joined the Medfield High students on stage for “Choo-Choo Ch’ Boogie,” before the MHS Jazz Choir gave an outstandingly different take on Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose.”
Doug Olsen, who announced earlier this year that he would be leaving Medfield High School at the end of the school year to pursue a position as an interim director and instructor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, directed the MHS Jazz Band. The band gave a well-rounded performance, offering instrumentals and vocals with student Alana Potts. Olsen even had the opportunity to play the trumpet with Grace Kelly, as she played the saxophone on stage.
The Jazz Band worked closely with Grace, who had spent the day at Medfield Public Schools visiting the music classes and talking about improvisation. They accompanied Grace in performing a couple of her original songs from her album, including “Trying To Figure It Out,” which she sang and played at Medfield’s Jazz Night.
With so much talent and Medfield’s appreciation for jazz, this year’s Jazz Night was one the entire community could be proud of.