Britain invades Miami for Frost Studio Jazz Band concert


The Maurice Gusman Concert Hall filled with the bombastic sound of trombones, saxophones and pianos as the University of Miami Studio Jazz Band, led by professor Stephen Guerra, played British songs for its program, “The British Invasion PLUS.”


The concert featured music by contemporary jazz artists from the United Kingdom. Guerra said he was inspired by Callum Au’s arrangements of Disney tunes for a London-based big band.

“A former student sent me a list of composers/arrangers I should check out … then came this concert,” Guerra said.

Au’s arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” opened the concert with a fast-paced and energetic take on the classic tune.

“I wanted to open the concert with a bang,” Guerra said. “It gave soloists lots of room to stretch out and be creative.”

Next was an Au original, “Gentleman Jack,” a medium swing serving as a vehicle for talented soloists. Bass trombonist Aaron Geldert and baritone saxophonist Nathan Hatton carried the band in this piece.

For trombonist Jered Byford, this concert marked his first solo with the SJB.

“It was just really fun to play with them,” Byford said.

Rounding out Au’s portion of the concert was a new arrangement of Michael Brecker’s “Original Rays,” written about an NYC pizza joint. Guerra recalled first hearing the piece at the 1987 Newport Jazz Festival, which he taped and watched “everyday for years.”

Freshman Stefan Hopman, who majors in tuba performance, said he was impressed by the musicians’ skill and how they worked together as a collective.

“The band’s variety in style was really cool to hear,” he said.

Sean Gibb’s “Tam O’Shanter,” which Guerra called his “favorite chart of the concert,” was written as an interpretation of the Robert Burns poem of the same name.

Guerra said he was particularly impressed by student Marc Solomon, who played “some fun Blues-y guitar,” and with Quinton McIntyre, who “took one of the more intelligent, appropriate and emotional solos I have heard from a young saxophonist.”

Guerra said that the last piece, Gordon Goodwin’s arrangement of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Things to Come,” would be performed with legendary trumpeter Arturo Sandoval at the November concert.

The band’s own Andrew Loose took on Sandoval’s role for the October concert. Jesse Klirsfeld’s powerful lead trumpet playing bookended the barnburner of a chart, garnering a standing ovation.

The Frost Studio Jazz Band performs on Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. in Gusman Hall at 1314 Miller Drive.