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All that jazz

Professional musicians visit WLHS students for clinic and performance
by: Vern Uyetake, Jazz trio Dave Tull (drums), Randy Porter (piano) and Tom Wakeling (bass) held a clinic for West Linn High School students May 21.

Some real cool cats visited the West Linn High School jazz band last week.

Professional musicians Dave Tull, bassist Tom Wakeling and pianist Randy Porter spent the afternoon of May 21 with the jazz band and that evening with the high school's jazz choir.

Tull has been a drummer and singer in Los Angeles for the last 25 years. Since 2000, he has toured the world with Chuck Mangione. He has also played for Michael Buble and has played drums for several episodes of FOX TV's 'Family Guy.'

Kevin Egan, the high school band teacher, said the trio was in Portland for a May 18 concert and Tull had heard good things about the jazz program in West Linn. So Tull gave Egan a call, offering to swing by for a clinic.

'It's kind of one of those perfect storm moments,' said Egan of the timing, as the jazz choir was also performing the evening of May 21 in Canby and the trio agreed to play backup.

'He said, 'I'm going to be in town, what do you think?'' Egan said. 'When you have the opportunity to bring in professional musicians, you don't say, 'no.''

During the clinic at the school, the trio listened to the jazz band play and then worked with different insturment sections, offering some guidance and advice.

The caliber of the West Linn jazz band is high, with many of the players ranking in the top 10 in a recent state solo competition. So, the pros worked with the students on more subtle areas, such as when to play transparently or not, when to back away from a soloist and how to read and communicate with other players while performing.

'It was just really wonderful,' Egan said of the clinic. 'It all had to do with stylistic nuance.'

The students also learned that the difference between an amateur and a professional musician is that the pros play every note with intent, Egan said.

'High school kids are still figuring out what the intent is sometimes,' Egan said.

After working with the jazz band the trio performed, talking in between songs about its experiences and about how its members work together, often performing together without practicing.

'It's a huge win for the kids,' Egan said.

The West Linn jazz band, which has 20 student members, performed its last gig of the school year yesterday and just returned from a weekend trip to Victoria, Canada. Two of their players, trumpeter Tom Glasi and trombonist Matt Miller will be part of the All American Jazz Band in Washington, D.C., in June.

The West Linn Music Arts Program helped to pay for the jazz clinic.