Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'Juvies' Not Afraid to Push Boundaries

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'Juvies' Not Afraid to Push Boundaries

Article excerpt

What astonishes me about Jazz Juvenocracy, the group of Sarasota- area high school jazz musicians who have made an international name for themselves over the past six years, is not just their impressive talent and accomplishment so early in life.

It is that they are boundary pushers, eager to defy expectations and tackle what might seem out of their league, even at the risk of falling short.

So I had a feeling even before attending "Rhapsody, Rhythm and Romance" -- promoted as a concert of jazz standards -- that there wasn't going to be much "standard" about this show, a collaboration with Fuzion Dance Artists. And, unless you interpret standards as everything from ragtime to grunge rock, I was right.

For what may be their last show for some time to come -- five of the seven musicians are graduating this year -- the Juvies could have played it safe and stuck with the American Songbook. Instead, they demonstrated the jazz tradition of "taking popular songs and turning them into vehicles for improvisation," as drummer Ronan Conan explains in one of the video clips in which band members introduced the program selections, which ran the chronological gamut from 1899 (Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag") to 1991 (Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit").

Was every piece a winner? No, and this concert was less polished and more erratically paced than some previous efforts. But every piece demonstrated originality and technical prowess, and a few were true gems, stunning in their sophistication.

Bit Risner, a trumpet player and the sole remaining founder of the group (which she started at age 10), has ventured into vocals the past couple of years. She tends to bridle when people praise her singing more than her playing, but I give kudos to both. Her skill, range and emotion in a largely solo rendition of "Angel Eyes," was electric, as she coaxed her horn from growling lows to piercing highs. …

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