Everyone’s jazzed about BHS festival’s return

Members of the Bainbridge High School Jazz9 ensemble were named outstanding student soloists at the 4th annual Puget Sounds Jazz Combo Festival May 21 at BHS.

After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the festival attracted nine high schools. The winning ensembles were Decatur followed by Ballard and The Northwest School.

Five BHS musicians were selected as top soloists: Calvin Wieland (saxophone and trombone), Barrett Lhamon (piano, tenor sax, vocals), Lang Armstrong (tenor and alto sax), Elana Memke (tenor and soprano sax) and Ben Gibson (sousaphone).

BHS director of bands Chris Thomas said the festival is the only event of its kind that focuses on jazz combos and ensembles, rather than Big Bands, which is what most schools have. “Most commercial jazz is played in small groups. So, if you’re playing jazz as an adult … usually, you’re playing in a small group at a cafe, and this is the only festival that actually has that setting.”

The evening concert featured guest artists from the Brian Lawrence Quintette. Lawrence’s commercial music has been seen in the Tournament of Roses Parade, a Seattle Seahawks halftime show and Carnival Cruise Lines.