Jazz innovator Ralph Alessi and his quintet, This Against That, will join Bakersfield College jazz students Wednesday evening in the Indoor Theater.
Trumpeter Alessi, along with saxophonist Jon Irabagon, pianist Andy Milne, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Mark Ferber have been working together in various combinations for decades, and have been recognized about that long as leaders of post-modern jazz.
What is post-modern jazz? Aside from the self-evident nature of the title, post-modern jazz refers to the musical experiments many jazz performers are conducting, defying categorization, transcending the standard major-minor music system (something they did decades ago), and borrowing freely from any musical tradition or instruments, that might provide the springboard into making new sound combinations.
The New York-based quintet have been touring the United States and abroad promoting its latest album, “Imaginary Friends,” stopping at Bakersfield College just in time to join jazz students in their first full jazz concert. It’s a perfect place for the group to visit, as they are also jazz educators.
BC students will take over the concert to demonstrate what the college’s jazz studies program has accomplished in just over a year. Jazz studies director Kris Tiner said the number of students has grown significantly; along with the large jazz ensemble, the program now has three smaller jazz combos with eight or nine students in each group, all of which will perform Wednesday night.
“Each group is doing a mix of jazz standards and arrangements,” Tiner wrote in an email. “As well as original pieces composed by the students.”
“Combo students are encouraged to write, develop, record and perform their own compositions.”
Those of you who are old enough will remember the 1970s and ‘80s, when BC was a jazz powerhouse, with award-winning big bands and small groups, but in later decades, jazz performance would begin to struggle.
Under Tiner’s tireless work over the last decade or more, BC jazz students have become present all over the community for concerts, community events, jazz festivals, high school music programs, as well as participating in statewide jazz music events. Those efforts were rewarded with the creation of a Jazz Studies program at the college last academic year.
Wednesday’s concert is also a fundraiser. Tiner said the advanced jazz combo has been invited to perform at the JENerations Jazz Festival, an adjunct to the Jazz Education Network Conference, held in New Orleans in January 2020. Proceeds from the concert and other activities will cover the students’ costs.
“Students will have full access to the conference — four days of high-profile, internationally renowned clinicians and concerts, and they will receive a private clinic after their performance,” Tiner wrote.
Tickets are $10, $7 for students or $35 for VIP donor tickets, which include a pre-concert reception with This Against That.