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Old experiences influence Gratz’s groove

Saxophonist Steve Alaniz and alum drummer Mike Bennett perform the piece “Potawatomi Trail” with the Reed Gratz Band Sunday in Morgan Auditorium. This concert was the first of a series called “Sundays at the Morgan.” / photo by Stephanie Ball

Saxophonist Steve Alaniz and alum drummer Mike Bennett perform the piece “Potawatomi Trail” with the Reed Gratz Band Sunday in Morgan Auditorium. This concert was the first of a series called “Sundays at the Morgan.” / photo by Stephanie Ball

Kristina Bugante
Arts Editor

The “Sundays at the Morgan” concert series kicked off with the jazzy sounds of the Reed Gratz Band Sunday in Morgan Auditorium.

Heads nodded and feet tapped as the usually formal atmosphere of the Morgan was replaced with the cool vibe that resonated with the band’s music.

“They’re all really talented musicians,” said sophomore music major Brianna Nemback, who is also in Professor of Music Reed Gratz’s music theory class. “I thought they did some interesting things.”

Members of the Reed Gratz Band include Gratz on piano, Steve Alaniz on saxophone and flute, La Verne alum Mike Bennett on drums, music department manager Steve Biondo on percussion, alum Andrew Ford and Dave Wood on guitar.

Nemback also noted the band’s improvisations.

“I really enjoyed Dr. Gratz’s piano work,” she said. “I know he did a lot of that off the top of his head.”

Despite some feedback issues with the sound, the band was able to pull through and deliver with a relaxing and soulful opening number, “Potawatomi Trail.”

After the third song of the night, ironically named “Third Period,” Gratz was a little hesitant in explaining the meaning of the title.

“You don’t want to know what ‘Third Period’ refers to,” he said. “It’s a little embarrassing.”

Gratz wrestled throughout high school and college and was the wrestling coach at La Verne during his first year of teaching in 1977.

The third period in a wrestling match is “absolutely gruesome,” Gratz said, because by then, everybody is worn out, and the wrestler who wins the third period usually wins the match.

“It’s an inside joke with myself,” he said. “Titles don’t mean all that to me, actually. You’ve got to name the piece something.”

“Tom (para Jobim)” was Gratz’s dedication to Brazilian composer Antônio Carlos Jobim. He is one of Gratz’s musical influences and a forefather of the bossa nova style of Brazilian music in the 1960s. Each of the band members played solos in select pieces, though a crowd favorite was Alaniz’s saxophone playing. Audience members would applaud at the beginning and end of each of his riveting solos.

“I truly enjoyed the saxophone player,” said Pomona resident Gayle Claiborne, who is a frequent visitor of concerts at La Verne.

All seven songs were original instrumental compositions by Gratz. Other original pieces on the repertoire included “Touba,” “She Sang Fado,” “Turquoise” and “The Boardwalk.”

The band members are seasoned players, as Alaniz was a former saxophonist for Andy Williams, Bennett was a drummer for Hilary Duff, Biondo is the founder of La Verne’s West African Drum Ensemble and Ford is a bassist for jazz singer Al Jarreau.

“Sundays at the Morgan” is a monthly concert series presented by the Department of Music that features diverse musical talent from around the region.

The next concert will feature an all-female Latin-American mariachi group, Trio Ellas, on Oct 6. There is a $20 suggested donation.

Kristina Bugante can be reached at kristina.bugante@laverne.edu.

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  3. Gratz Band hits all the right notes with inspirational jazz
  4. Happenings
  5. Sunday grooves with Latin beats

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