A New Club for Groton's Annual Jazz Gig

For the past fourteen years, Groton’s jazz ensembles performed at Ryles, a storied jazz club in Cambridge, Massachusetts. With the club now closed, “Soul Sauce,” the school’s jazz ensemble, and Groton’s smaller jazz combos headed elsewhere this year for their annual gig at a real-live music club.

On Sunday, January 27, twenty-two musicians boarded buses for the Hard Rock Café in Boston, a venue chosen after extensive research by Director of Performing Arts Mary Ann Lanier and Director of Jazz Ensembles Kenji Kikuchi.
Students representing every form performed to a packed house that included alumni, locals, parents, faculty, and students, as well as Headmaster Temba Maqubela and Vulyelwa Maqubela. Audience members traveled from Colorado, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, and towns all over Massachusetts for the performance.
The big band, “Soul Sauce,” opened the show with a lively set that included “Jazz Police” by Gordon Goodwin, “Samantha” by Sammy Nestico, and Duke Ellington’s “Caravan,” as band director Kenji Kikuchi charmed the audience with his enthusiastic, humorous banter. Singer Kochoe Nikoi ’19 joined in for a smooth performance of Gershwin’s “S’Wonderful.” The eighteen-member big band features Brian Xiao ’19, Cara Chang ’20, Dashy Rodriguez ’19, Ben Reyes ’22, Anna Ferronato Pimentel ’21, Alden Alijani ’20, Christina Oelhafen ’21, Aisling O’Connell ’21, Rami Hahami ’22, Bensen Han ’23, Henry Kuck ’20, Aroon Sankoh ’21, Ben Jones ’22, Jed Rainey ’20, Andrew Lei ’19, Joshua Guo ’20, Kate Clark ’21, and Sammy Agrawal ’21.
A small combo led by Christina Oelhafen on trumpet, with Tai Campbell ’21 on drum set, Andrew Lei ’19 on double bass, Joshua Guo on piano, and Anna Ferronato Pimentel on guitar, followed the larger group. They treated the crowd to some nice solo playing on the Ellington classic “Don’t Get Around Much Any More.” A second combo of Ben Reyes, Bensen Han, Jasmine Garcia ’22, and Sammy Agrawal played three tunes, including Kenny Dorham’s “Blue Bossa.”

Groton’s Riverside Combo, featuring Brian Xiao (alto sax), Alden Alijani (trumpet), Andrew Lei (double and electric bass), Joshua Guo (piano), and Kate Clark (drum set), performed an exciting set, joined by vocalists Kochoe Nikoi for Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and Lily Cratsley ’19 for a CeeLo Green pop hit. Finally the group ended with a rock tune, “Peg,” by Steely Dan, because as Brian Xiao told the crowd, “This is not the Hard Jazz Café, it’s the Hard Rock Café.”

The big band Soul Sauce returned for a final set. After some great classic tunes by Count Basie and Duke Ellington, tenor sax player Dashy Rodriguez put down her horn to sing “Don’t Know Why” by Norah Jones. The set ended with a full-out jam session on Pee Wee Ellis’ “The Chicken.” On this tune, every band member grooved in a solo turn. Enthusiastic applause brought the band back for an encore—Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “September.”
Plan on joining Groton’s jazz combos for their club performance again next winter!