July 31--Some of the area's top young jazz musicians are gigging like the pros this weekend, performing Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. in the Piggy's Restaurant Smokin' Blues Lounge.
The Coulee Region High School Jazz All-Stars, a 20-piece big band made up of students from Aquinas, Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau, Holmen, Logan, Onalaska and West Salem, is back for their ninth year as an ensemble, director Jim Knutson said.
Formerly an Onalaska High School band director who now teaches music at St. Mary's University in Winona, Knutson selects band members from a pool of 30 to 40 applicants nominated by their high school band directors.
"This is a nice way to bring all the top kids together into this group," Knutson said. "Each was a leader in their own jazz band at their school."
The All-Stars spent the past three days preparing a set list packed with traditional and contemporary jazz, blues and Latin standards, including famous tunes like Ernesto Lecuona's "MalagueÑa," Astor Piazzolla's "Libertango," Duke Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone" and Count Basie's "Jumping at the Woodside." Knutson's daughter, Clara, will join the group as a guest vocalist on Norah Jones' "Don't Know Why" and Nat King Cole's "Orange Colored Sky."
The Coulee Region Steel Band, a 10-piece group founded by Knutson, will also perform on Friday and Saturday. The ensemble features six people playing steel drums, called "pans," a three-piece regular percussion section and a vocalist.
The All-Stars are supported by Piggy's owner Chris Roderique and jazz band benefactor Donna Brooks, who provides three graduating seniors with scholarships to play in the group, Knutson said.
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