Mona Shield Payne
Friday, Sept. 13, 2013 | 6 p.m.
Dave Loeb performs for pay, and he performs for passion.
Playing piano for the film “Ted,” for instance, is mostly for pay. Not to suggest Loeb is ever lacking in passion, but contributing to the 2012 Seth MacFarlane film was more an assignment than a calling. Same can be said of Loeb’s regular work on scoring MacFarlane’s “Family Guy” Fox TV series, and his former contributions to scene-setting music for "Hill Street Blues," "L.A. Law" and "Ally McBeal."
By comparison, heading up the UNLV Jazz Studies Program is a genuine, to-the-core passion for Loeb, who is celebrating the UNLV Jazz Ensemble’s 40th anniversary at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Artemus Ham Hall with a performance by some of the city’s most accomplished musicians — who also happen to be UNLV alumni — and the UNLV Jazz Ensemble 1 band. (Tickets are $10, available through the UNLV Performing Arts Center website or by calling 895-2787.)
This show at the venerable music hall is to play out as an inherently musical experience. If you are seeking smoke machines, painted performers juggling flaming clubs or anyone bounding about on bungee cords, look elsewhere. But if you want to experience a musical ensemble that has helped populate bands in shows across Las Vegas, this is the place.
“I liken my role in this like being the coach of a football team,” Loeb says. “We have a lot of fantastic, talented players who come in and fill in for the ones who leave. Different players leave, but others come in to hone their craft and develop as musicians.
“The goal is to entice them to come to the school, of course,” Loeb says.
Loeb is joined onstage as conductor by a couple of highly respected musicians and arrangers who rose from the Jazz Studies Program: Nathan Tanouye and Dennis Mackrel. Tanouye is at once personally unassuming yet uncommonly talented, one of the city’s foremost trombone players (he is a chief inspiration for the famed #trombonesolo Twitter hashtag, for starters). Tanouye performs in, and writes the charts for, Celine Dion’s orchestra at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace. He is also a member of the burning Santa Fe & the Fat City Horns band at the Palms and also backed Donny & Marie at the Flamingo. The Jazz Studies Program also boasts some instructors of high caliber; David Perrico of “Pin Up” and his own Pop Evolution show band at the Stratosphere is one, as is Tanouye.
Mackrel is back to perform with both the UNLV Jazz Alumni Band and UNLV Jazz Ensemble after forging an impressive career as director of the Count Basie Orchestra. While at UNLV, Mackrel played drums in the Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Frank Gagliardi before taking off for a successful career as a jazz artist in New York.
UNLV’s Jazz Studies Program has won international acclaim as one of the great collegiate musical institutions in the world. It has produced five international awards doled out by DownBeat Magazine, one of the most prestigious publications in jazz music. The school submits an unmarked CD for review, and the UNLV artists are gauged purely on the merit of their music.
“We’re up there against Julliard, USC, schools from Australia, South Africa,” says Loeb, who has been known to jump around after learning of these DownBeat Award recognitions. “This is worldwide, and there is no pretense of prejudice in the judging process. It’s a huge honor to be recognized at that level.”
The school will sell the new UNLV Jazz Studies Program CD, "The Four of Us,” on Tuesday night. Similar to the show that night, you should give it a whirl. The artists who played the music are confident you’ll like it.
• On the topic of UNLV-connected musicians doing cool things around VegasVille, Perrico is to perform a private concert for about 800 students at Las Vegas Academy on Sept. 24. The show is scheduled for 1 p.m. at LVA’s Lowden Theater and is to strengthen the link between the hotel and the arts academy. Half of the ticket sales from Perrico’s Tuesday Pop Evolution performances are being donated to the school.
This relationship between LVA and the Strat was ignited when Frankie, Tony and Ricky Moreno visited the school this spring to teach the elusive art of songwriting, which resulted in the band of young LVA hepcats Tommy Ward and Swayd opening for Moreno at the Stratosphere Showroom.
The hotel also plans to send cast members from “Pin Up” (but not the show’s Playboy Playmate star, Claire Sinclair) to LVA to — quoting from the hotel’s news release — “work with students in the coming year in the areas of dance, show production, costuming and set design.”
In a statement, LVA Principal Scott Walker said: “The insight David Perrico and Pop Evolution provides on song arranging is the kind of experience that is so valuable to students who strive for a career in music. We’re so pleased the partnership with the Stratosphere is offering so many benefits for our promising students.”
This is a concept, and an artistic relationship, to support.