Students Get Greek Gig

Jacob & Alejandro have a jazz jam at The Greek Place on Sundays

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“Nice work if you can get it,” sang Ella Fitzgerald, one of the jazz greats, of a George Gershwin tune.

Finding gigs has never been easy for musicians. It’s not enough that you can play or sing well, but you have to find a venue to support you.

It can be more challenging if you’re young, don’t have any local contacts or a car to get there.

But sometimes, all you have to do is ask. Such was the case for Alejandro Barron and his buddies Jacob Scesney and Caleb Hensinger.  All three are jazz music students at Idyllwild Arts Academy and were looking for weekend work.

“I just stopped by a few places in town, and asked if they were interested in having a jazz combo,” said Barron.

Demetri, from The Greek Place, a popular restaurant among students, agreed to have them play on Sunday afternoons for a couple of hours.

“The owner said that he couldn’t afford to pay us, but he’d give us free food,” Barron said.

They didn’t mind “playing for their supper,” because they were sick of dorm food, and all loved Greek food anyway. Later on, they put out a tip jar. After a two-hour session, they generally make about $18 to split.

Jacob sometimes plays his own tunes

“This Sunday afternoon gig is good for us because we get a chance to practice our music for two hours,” Scesney said. “More than that, we get honest reactions from people who are not our friends or teachers.”

During the winter months, Barron, on bass guitar, Scesney, on alto saxophone and sometimes Hensinger, on trumpet, would play their favorite jazz tunes in the corner of the restaurant.

“It can be hard getting a comfortable volume level,” Barron explained. “You don’t want to blast the couple eating in front of you, but you want the guy in the back corner to hear you too.”

Most times, they’d play jazz standards for the diners. But sometimes, they’d play tunes that Scesney wrote, which was rewarding for him.

“Recently, I wrote my own arrangement of a Chris Potter tune,” Scesney said. Chris Potter is his favorite sax player. “Anyway, Radiohead played it first, then Chris did an arrangement, and then I did mine off his. You can still recognize it though.”

(This new arrangement will be played by Nate Levenson, a jazz drummer, at his senior recital at Stephens this Friday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m.)

Last week, they played outside the Greek Place in the Village Lane. That way, the other 12 shops could enjoy their jam session.

“It was a little cold out there in the shade,” Barron said. “My fingers were numb.”

Jazz musicians just wanna play

But they’re not complaining. They’ve got a regular gig going—at least until June when they break for the summer.

Hear their jazz combo at The Greek Place restaurant most Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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