Parkrose High jazz band jams at Jimmy Mak’s

Here’s a story you won’t see anywhere else: Discover why many of these student musicians were playing downtown – at a renowned jazz club …

The Parkrose High Jazz Band takes the stage at downtown jazz club, Jimmy Mak’s.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Looking sharp, dressed in their “performance best” tuxedos and dresses, members of the Parkrose High School Jazz Band turned heads, as they filtered into Jimmy Mak’s – the well-known downtown Pearl District nightclub.

These student musicians were ready to give patrons a true “big band” experience, as their chairs and music stands were tightly packed on the night club’s small stage on May 15.

The Jazz Band’s leader, Parkrose High band instructor Randy McCray, gives the downbeat to start off another tune.

A Parkrose High senior and trombonist, Tom Wolken, solos.

“It’s important to for young musicians to get the opportunity to perform for diverse audiences,” remarked Parkrose High’s Band Director Randy McCray, as the group warmed up.

“Many high school students never get to experience playing in a real music venue,” McCray added. “And Jimmy Mak’s is a great place to play. It’s a wonderful, legendary venue here in Portland that supports live music.”

The group traveled downtown from mid-County, prepared to play a “full set” of ten songs for the early evening crowd that began to fill the club’s tables.

Tunes by jazz and big band greats make up the repertoire of the Parkrose High Jazz Band.

Freshman Nate Frary focuses intently, as he adds effortless-sounding piano riffs to a song.

“The tunes we’re presenting include Glenn Miller’s ‘In the Mood’, a Count Basie tune called ‘Splankey’, and a jazz composition co-written by Bob Haggart, and Ray Bauduc from 1938 called ‘Big Noise from Winnetka’,” revealed McCray.

In addition to providing a year-capping opportunity for this melodious group, the modest cover charge collected at the door went to help support the school’s “Senior All-night Party”.

These young musicians fill Jimmy Mak’s with their rich big-band sound – played so well, it astonishes some patrons.

At the downbeat, some club patrons were clearly surprised to hear the tight sound of a professional-sounding band coming from the bandstand – as the students serenaded a growingly appreciative crowd.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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