Battle of the big bands

The Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Fred Sturm, LU ’73, squared off against Professor Robert Levy’s Big Band Reunion Tuesday night at Tom’s Garage, in an old-fashioned Big Band Battle. The battle was pitted as a tense fight between old pros and young guns.Levy’s BBR was packed with star power, as the trumpet section alone included four current Lawrence faculty members, and Associate Professor Jose Encarnacion sat in on sax, trading tenor solos with Tom Washatka, who will teach at Lawrence next year, among many more vets. A highlight of the BBR’s set was a walk-on cameo by jazz singer Janet Planet, who brought the predominantly august crowd to its feet with a romp through Anthony Newley’s chestnut “On A Wonderful Day Like Today.”

LUJE, for its parts, concentrated on the classics, slowing things down with some swing tunes associated with Count Basie’s big band. The band began its second set by moving through the crowd playing the New Orleans brass band tune “Do What You Want.” Tensions between the groups ran high, but in genial fashion, as a series of challenges from one group to the other appeared posted to conservatory doors throughout Tuesday.

The event, sponsored by Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, brought out a wide array of swing fans, packing the main room to see experience square off against youthful hunger. No winner was declared.

The Big Band Reunion holds a weekly gig each Tuesday at 8 at Frank’s Pizza Palace.

Jacob Teichroew, right, keeps it cool on the alto sax. Jacob Thomas, below, steps out front on tenor. Both are LUJE members.