News

An evening of jazz at Lawrence Barn on July 26

Friday, July 18, 2014

By IRENE LABOMBARDE

Staff Writer

HOLLIS – The Hollis Social Library is sponsoring an evening of jazz from 7-9 p.m. on Saturday, July 26 at the Lawrence Barn. Side Street Combo, a sextet comprised of recent Hollis Brookline High School graduates, will open the show, followed by music from the Boston-based Aaron Gratzmiller Quartet. The event is free and open to the public.

Although they have only recently begun hiring out for gigs, the members of Side Street Combo have been playing together for years, according to founder Benjamin Michon, a music education major at Plymouth State College.

“We thought it would be cool to jazz up guitar night at Hollis Brookline, so we formed a group to play,” he said. The combo played at the high school for two years, and continued even after its members graduated.

“We got pretty well-known, and got into funk and horn bands,” he said. “We performed as the funkadactyls for a while. At Plymouth State, I realized how much fun jazz is to play.”

The Side Street Combo will perform jazz standards, including music of Fred Hubbard, and new age music by Chris Potter which Michon describes as “funky stuff in a jazz setting.” Combo members are Michon on saxophone, Eric Smith on trumpet, Nick Campbell on drums, Alec Gervais on bass, Tim Rencken on guitar and Justin Nierendorf on piano.

Aaron Gratzmiller Quartet

A native of Pittsburg, Penn., Aaron Gratzmiller began piano lessons in second grade, and took up saxophone shortly after. He played in jam sessions while attending Slippery Rock University prior to moving to Boston. He graduated summa cum laude from the Berklee College of Music with a degree in musical performance, with saxophone as his principal instrument.

“Being a professional musician, you have to find a balance, you have to be versatile,” he said. “I play pop music in a wedding band, and also play in the Beantown Swing Orchestra, which is a totally different set of skills. I play piano solo at cocktail parties, and sax solo in a small jazz band.”

Local readers may be familiar with Gratzmiller since he teaches piano and saxophone at North Main Music in Nashua. He is also an accomplished composer, who finds his inspiration in many places.

“The inspiration varies from piece to piece,” he said. “I wrote ‘Cypress’ after looking at paintings by Van Gogh. A lot of his paintings have cypress trees in them, and something in that mood struck me.”

The other musicians in Gratzmiller’s group, also from Berklee, are Evan Waaramaa on piano, Osmar Okuma on bass, and Fabio Rojas on drums.

Rojas has had an interesting path to his present job composing music for full orchestra. A native of Valencia, Venezuela, he began studying drums at the age of 13. He attended college in Caracas, and played concert percussion in a symphony orchestra. He became interested in Latin percussion, and by the age of 19, he was playing with the most acclaimed and recognized jazz musicians in Venezuela, such as Pablo Gil, Diego Alvarez, and Gonzalo Mico. Political upheaval prevented him from pursuing his dream, however, and he was forced to leave the country and his family. He fled to the United States in 2010 and enrolled in Berklee where he majored in jazz percussion performance and film scoring.

“In Venezuela I did jazz performance and wanted to compose, but I never got the opportunity,” he said. “When I got to Berklee, they said, ‘If you want to learn, sit down and we will teach you.’”

Since coming to Boston, Rojas has performed at numerous venues and events, including Symphony Hall, TEDx Boston, the Berklee Middle Eastern Festival, and the Esplanade.

On the 26th the Aaron Gratzmiller Quartet will perform some original compositions and some jazz standards that people may not be used to hearing often. They will also perform some familiar works and encourage the younger musicians from Side Street Combo to join in.

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