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The City Journals

Rock n’ Roll might be dead, but the Riverton Jazz Band is keeping Jazz alive

Oct 21, 2019 12:38PM ● By Cassie Goff

Ammon Christiansen and Max Hanson lift Noelle Wilkins and Lauren Peterson during their performance to “Five Foot Two.” (Cassie Goff/City Journals)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

The swaying of shoulders began when marimba rhythms started to play at Rhythm in the Heights on Oct. 12. The production was coordinated by the Cottonwood Heights Arts Council and featured the Riverton Jazz Band, along with singers Ashlee Hudson, Heather Fellows, Mark Fellows, Madeline Best, Ashley Mordwinow, Cameron Vakilian, Patrick Fulton, Jannalee Hunsaker, Megan Robertson, Benzley Tinney and Natalie Daniel, and dancers Ammon Christiansen, Max Hanson, Lauren Peterson and Noelle Wilkins from QuickStep Dance Studio. 

The Riverton Jazz Band is a volunteer organization made up of 17 musicians who perform for community events, dances, parades and other community events. 

Hudson began the performance by singing “A Tisket, a Tasket,” originally by Ella Fitzgerald. Hudson was visibly concerned about her stolen yellow basket, especially when the Riverton Jazz Band musicians kept asking her what color her basket was, in the form of supporting vocals. 

Heather Fellows scatted the lyrics to “Orange Colored Sky,” originally by Nate King Cole. Fellows received some calls from the audience as she sang through the fast lyrics between versus. 

QuickStep Dance Studio performers Christiansen, Max, Lauren and Wilkins danced to “Take the A Train,” originally by Duke Ellington, and later “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The audience seemed to be impressed with their dances as they received some of the loudest applause of the night. 

When Vakilian walked on stage to perform “Sway,” originally by Norman Gimbel, his golden blazer shimmered from catching the spotlight. If that wasn’t distracting, his ability to stay on key certainly was. As Vakilian walked through the audience, he inspired multiple audience members to sway with him. 

Best tested the audience’s musical theater knowledge by singing “Somewhere.” Best also impressed audience members with her vocal range. 

Daniel performed “At Last” by Etta James. Daniel inspired an immediate reaction from the audience, then stepped aside in the middle of her performance so a musician from the Riverton Jazz Band could perform his saxophone solo. 

To close the first act, the Riverton Jazz Band performed “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller. The performance of this song persuaded the audience to believe the musicians were enjoying their night, with dueling saxophones, a trumpet solo and some playful trombones. 

After intermission, Mordwinow sang “Besame Mucho,” originally by Cesaria Evora. Mordwinow’s rhythm synced with the jazz bands effortlessly as she stepped into the audience to deliver a kiss and a rose. 

Mark Fellows took on Billie Holiday’s “I’ll Be Seeing You.” He received immense support from audience members sitting directly in front of the stage. 

Jannalee Hunsaker also tested our musical theater knowledge when she sang “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man.” “Sang” isn’t quite the correct word for Hunsaker’s performance. She belted the high notes as she was cheered on. 

QuickStep Dance Studio performers Christiansen, Hanson, Peterson and Wilkins brought out their quickstep one last time when they danced to “Five Foot Two” by Dean Martin. Before stepping onto the stage, Christiansen and Hanson were snapping their suspenders to the beat. 

Patrick Fulton made the audience feel the woe from the song “Stormy Weather” by Ethel Waters. 

Benzley Tinney brought the audience’s spirits back up with “All of Me” by Ruth Etting. Tinney was comfortable with her stage presence as she moved aside during two different solos from the jazz musicians and regained the audience’s attention center stage to finish her song. 

Robertson followed Tinney’s sentiment by singing “Almost Like Being in Love” by Natalie Cole. Robertson really jazzed up the audience — many attendees were dancing along with her before she was halfway through her song.  

What would a jazz concert be without “Sing Sing Sing” by Louis Prima, famously performed by Benny Goodman? The Riverton Jazz Band left the audience with the song to get stuck in their head. 

Upcoming events for the Cottonwood Heights Arts Council include “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever!” on Dec. 7 and Dec. 9; and the Cottonwood Heights Film Festival on March 13 and 14. Follow the arts council on Facebook at CHArtsCouncil and on Instagram at chcityarts. 

Follow the Riverton Jazz Band on Facebook or Instagram at rivertonjazzband, or by visiting their website at www.rivertonjazzband.com.