Jazz may seem like music your grandparents jam to, but when Bernie Dresel and his BBB band play, his toe-tapping tunes and swinging beats can find a place anywhere.
It’s not the first time Dresel has performed at Pierce College’s Thursday Concert Series. This time he brought his entire band, the BBB. Dresel performed Thursday, April 18, on the art hill.
Dresel is known for his TV and film and soundtrack credits, such as Incredibles 2, Zootopia, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Family Guy, and The Simpsons.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1983 after studying at the Eastman School of Music. Since then, he was the drummer for two Grammy Award-winning bands. He now heads his own big band, The BBB featuring Bernie Dresel on their second album tour.
The concert started off strong with “Straight, No Chaser,” a classic jazz piece originally composed by Thelonious Monk. A full horn section of trumpets, trombones, saxophones and clarinet, as well as upright bass and guitar, powered through the song as arranged by Andrew Neu.
A crowd of around 200 students, faculty and community members sat out in the sun on the grass, in chairs and some hiding out of the heat in the shade of the music buildings. A few of the students were even hopping and bopping to the beat and feeling the groove in front of the stage.
Dresel joked around in between songs and kept the mood lively with tidbits and facts about the songs and players.
He remarked that one of the biggest challenges to playing outdoors is the wind, as the players stumbled around with clothespins and paperweights to keep their music sheets from blowing away.
“We use these things, called clothespins,” Dresel said. “Do you know what they were originally used for? We used to hang our laundry out to dry on a line at my grandma’s house.”
Throughout the show, the players helped each other to keep the music going by constantly monitoring and fixing each other’s papers, especially during solos, but they never missed a beat amidst the adjustments.
Next, the band moved on to Cole Porter’s classic, “Love for Sale” as arranged by Peter Myers featuring Jeff Bunnell on trumpet, Rob Lockhart on tenor saxophone and Brian Scanlon on alto saxophone.
Each of the songs they played was drawn from the BBB’s second album, “Bern Bern Bern”.
Then, they played “Sunny Side of the Street,” a slower swing tempo that has become a jazz standard, originally composed by Jimmy McHugh and arranged by Nan Schwartz.
Some of the following songs were arranged and even composed by BBB players, such as Samba Quente, composed and arranged by baritone saxophonist Brian Williams. Two of the songs, “Body and Soul” composed by Johnny Green and “A Night in Tunisia” by Dizzy Gillespie, were arranged by trumpeter Jeff Bunnell. And “Bern Bern Bern,” the album’s title track was composed and arranged by trombonist James McMillen.
Near the end, they played “Wiggle Waggle,” a song originally composed by the funky Herbie Hancock, who became a household name in the 1980’s with his MTV hit song “Rockit.” The Bill Cunliffe arrangement focused more on the playful aspects of the song than the edgy tension of the original.
They closed out the concert with “Crossing the Boulevard,” composed and arranged by Andrew Neu.
Dresel was especially playful and boisterous during his drum solo which started out intense and fast and devolved into a seemingly experimental and interpretive burst of wild energy and cross-tempos until it dropped down to just the kick drum and symbols, lighter and lighter and fading to nothing, then bursting back for a dramatic finish.
The crowd responded with thunderous applause and Dresel thanked the college and audience then mingled with the students, signing autographs and talking about jazz. Some people went up to the stage afterward to take turns touching the instruments, fiddling with the upright bass and sharing their enthusiasm for the music with the players.
Overall, it was one groovy ride.
Read about the last time Bernie Dresel graced the stage.