Written by Ana Bahena / Contributor
While the wind outside blew a cold sigh, fiery voices brought warmth to a room of music aficionados. Southwestern College’s Jazz Vocal Ensemble was warm and comforting as steaming tea on a gray winter’s day.
SWC’s Third Annual Jazz Café featured 23 students performing solos, duets and group numbers. Some performances were under-rehearsed, but jazz honors improvisation and the band and singers mostly enjoyed solid musical conversations. Some singers were very impressive, while others showed potential. Group numbers were fine, but stumbles were easily noticed. Within all the racket, a cadre of talent broke through.
After a weak ensemble rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “The Lady is a Tramp,” Eva Flores took the mic and turned things around. Her powerhouse voice did the song “At Last” more than justice. Etta James would have been proud of Flores as she commanded the floor with her spine-tingling high notes. Youthful Flores performed with an old soul that seemed to know the glory days of vocal jazz when Prohibition and flappers dominated the landscape. Flores would have fit right into a smoky basement club singing into a square microphone with a flower pinned behind her left ear.
Dulce Perez stepped into the spotlight with her emotional version of Nina Simone’s “I Put a Spell on You.” Her voice had a gritty texture that was compelling. She took control of the room with her comfortable stage presence and put a spell on everyone. David Castel de Oro blew some wicked sax as he traded licks with Perez. Nearing the end of her song, Perez hit a note so impressively that she had people asking if she had ever recorded an album. Maybe she should.
Best performance of the night went to J.P. Acosta singing “Sometimes I Cry” by Eric Benet. Comparable to Robin Thicke or Usher, Acosta put his own style into his falsetto performance. His silky voice soared effortlessly through the higher notes and he left the audience lost in reverie.
Although the night had some misses, the sweet cancelled the sour. Every number was entertaining and the cozy atmosphere warmed the audience like a hot cup of jazz tea.