Seattle-area high school jazz bands fared less well than usual at the Essentially Ellington competition Saturday in New York.
None of the bands — Garfield, Roosevelt or Mount Si — made it into the top three, though Garfield received an honorable mention.
Since 1999, when the competition opened to schools west of the Mississippi, Garfield has won first place four times, Roosevelt three times, and both bands are used to turning up somewhere in the top three.
This year, the Tucson Jazz Institute, from Arizona, placed first; Jazz House Kids, from Montclair, N.J., second; and Dillard Center for the Arts, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., third.
Band directors from Garfield and Roosevelt noted the top three are arts magnet schools or community schools. Garfield and Roosevelt have bested such schools in the past, but there are more of them now.
Asked if this made for a fair competition, Garfield’s Clarence Acox, while careful to note he was not complaining, said, “No. It’s not fair. When you get a band that draws from a whole region? Don’t get me wrong — they’re good bands. I don’t take that away from them.”
Scott Brown, Roosevelt’s band director, suggested the festival might consider separate categories for public and community schools, as other festivals have done.
“The public schools are being squeezed out of the top,” he said.
Wynton Marsalis, artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, which presents the festival, said the competition was very close.
“There were only three or four points separating the top four bands,” he said.
The judges were musicians and educators, including Marsalis.
Ninety-four bands applied. The 15 finalists won a workshop and master classes with a professional musician and educator.
Jazz at Lincoln Center started the festival in 1996. It provides scores of Ellington’s music, then bands submit recordings to compete for the finals. Bands are judged on soulfulness, interpretation, technique, sound/intonation and solos.
The 2013-14 Essentially Ellington scores were Duke Ellington’s “Chinoiserie,” “Flirtibird,” “I Like the Sunrise” and “Uptown Downbeat”; Gerald Wilson’s “Dissonance In Blues,” “Nancy Jo” and “Teri”; and Wilson’s arrangement of “Perdido,” composed by Ervin Drake, Harry Lenk and Juan Tizol.
Individual students and band sections also were honored as outstanding.
For piano, Conner Drake (Mount Si) and Jack Swiggett (Garfield) were recognized and Alice Mar-Abe (Garfield) got honorable mention.
On bass, Christian Henriksen (Mount Si) and Will Langlie-Miletich (Roosevelt); on guitar, Peter Stoessel, (Roosevelt). For drums, honorable mention, Luke Woodle (Roosevelt).
Alto saxophone, Anna Dolde (Roosevelt); tenor saxophone, Santosh Sharma, Jesse Beckett-Herbert and Taka Olds (Roosevelt) and Isak Washburn-Gains (Garfield), plus honorable mentions for Boone Hapke (Mount Si) and Charles Sawyer (Garfield).
Trumpet, Jeffrey Gustaveson (Roosevelt), Leslie Kolke (Mount Si) and honorable mentions for John Otten and Rubin Hohlbein (Roosevelt), Charles Feig and Thomas Renehan (Garfield). Trombone, honorable mention, Porter Jones (Roosevelt).
Section honors: saxophones, Roosevelt; brass, Mount Si; trombones, trumpets and pep section (a combination of instruments), Garfield; rhythm, honorable mention, Mount Si.