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The Big Band X-Press takes to the Historic USO stage

By Laura Quezada News Review Staff Writer–

  Big Band X-Press (BBX) invites you to dance or tap your foot this Saturday night, May 6, at the Historic USO Building, 230 W. Ridgecrest Blvd. With your $10 admission, you get a free dance lesson from The Groove Ballroom starting at 6:30 pm. The band goes live at 7:30 pm until 10 pm.

‘Tis the season of Star Wars, with May 4th being “May the Fourth Be With You” and May 6th being “The Return of the Sith.” So dress in your Star Wars attire if you wish. They say, “Striking up the band from a hidden rehearsal space, The Big Band X-Press is ready to blast into May. Seeking allies in their quest to enjoy music and dance, they send a signal into the desert. Dancing is encouraged by The Force.” You can enjoy the music like a concert; however, they consider themselves a dance band.

Big Band Xpress
/ Laura Austin File Photo

Scholarship Chair Julia Mason tells us that this Saturday night is special. “We give out scholarships yearly to local music students so they can attend band camp.” There are three scholarship recipients this year.

Dominick Massey, percussionist, is a freshman at Burroughs High School (BHS). He will be attending Arrowbear Jazz Improv Camp. He started playing drums as a little kid and plans to major in Music Film Composition when he graduates.

Trombone player Grace Garver is an 8th grader at Monroe. She is too young for the Improv Camp, so she will go to Arrowbear Intermediate Camp. She started on the piano when she was six years old and played the trombone during the pandemic by learning via Zoom. She also plays violin and is interested in playing the guitar.

Tenor sax player Justin Bal is a BHS junior and will attend Arrowbear Jazz Improv Camp. He started on the clarinet in the 6th grade, moved to alto sax, and in 8th grade settled on tenor sax. He plays in the BHS stage bands plus Big Band X-Press.

Other young folks are playing in BBX. Mason’s 12-year-old son Riley Mason has played trumpet since he was six. He and his mom joined the band after seeing a story about BBX in a January 2022 issue of the News Review. She won’t be playing this weekend; she gave her seat to a trumpet player from Bishop. She will be there taking photos and maybe dancing.

Julia has been studying jazz history and says BBX follows the early traditions of jazz musicianship. “Jazz was learned through mentorship. Kids in the 1920s did not go to a conservatory and learn how to play jazz. There’s this very ingrained part of jazz culture that they take these promising talented kids under their wings, the kids would join their bands,  play with them, and learn through that process.

“If you learned classically growing up,’ she continues, “it’s going to be different to read the jazz music. A lot is done through hearing, playing, learning, and learning on the job – being there with them and hearing how they play it and mimicking. Especially improvisation, where they give you a chord, and you’re supposed to play something.“Come enjoy yourself,” Julia invites. “Support local music students.”