Petaluma fundraiser lets teen musicians open for pros

  • Percussionists Edden Yashar, left, Micah Lesch, and Avery Okamura dance during their Varsity Jazz Ensemble class at Petaluma High School on Friday, January 24, 2014.

    (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Fine-tuning their instruments and loosening their chops, the Petaluma High School jazz ensemble rehearsed the final time Friday for Saturday's big-stage gig with Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers.

Each year, band director Cliff Eveland books a major concert for the teenage jazz band to open for at the Mystic Theatre. The event is a fundraiser for the award-winning music program.

The 8 p.m. show should be jumpin'. Smith and her eight-piece band are standards in the high-energy swing dance world. The sultry Smith, who lives in San Francisco, evokes a sensuous era of glamorous jazz divas, drawing on the influences of legends Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington and Bessie Smith.

The high school band has a wide-ranging, up-tempo set planned, with a Dizzy Gillespie tune to open, a Latin jazz song and Duke Ellington's "I'm Just a Lucky So and So."

"Ready, one, two, three, four," Eveland called out to the two dozen young musicians Friday morning in their last practice session.

The band -#8211; with trumpets, trombones, piano, guitars, drums and half a dozen saxophones -#8211; ran through most of its 11-song set, kicking it off with Gillespie's jazz standard "Groovin' High."

"Wait," Eveland said, wanting to hear another riff again. "Something was a little amok there. Hopefully it won't be amok tomorrow."

Sophomore drummer Edden Yashar, 16, wasn't too nervous about performing on the same stage as professionals.

"My brother did it when I was a little kid," he said. "So I kinda know what it's like. It should be very cool."

He's looking forward to seeing the Skillet Lickers play.

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