It was a a bit off campus, but they had all been much farther. Still, they knew it was as far as they were going to go. The Del Rey Church where Reno Behnken played his senior piano recital on Sunday August 7th wasn’t just the senior recital of a very accomplished pianist, it was also the final gig of one of the most celebrated groups of musicians to come out of the Academy of Visual and Performing Arts at Culver City High School – the Jazz Combo.
The guys in the black shirts and red ties ween’t all graduating out, but many were and this particular recipe for jazz would not be served again.
Reno held the first half of the program on his own, performing with exquisite precision selections from Liszt, Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven, often praising his piano teacher, Ms. Barsky, for her great confidence in his talent.
The second slice of the performance was the Jazz Combo – Reno on keyboards, Oliver Berliner on trombone, Mikael Nida on trumpet, Milo Bechtloff-Weising on baritone sax, James Tingle on bass, Kent Seeberger on clarinet, Niko Vlahakis on alto sax, and Josh Zucker on drums.
Showing some fantastic craftsmanship on classic jazz by names like Coltrane and Hancock, the band had a great time handing off solos and supporting each other through one tune after another. The original compositions – one each by Reno and Niko – were so good, they testified to how much talent and skill the players all had in common.
While the audience enjoyed and parents beamed with pride, no one in the room had the right to be more pleased the Dr. Tony Spano, the co-director of the AVPA and the music teacher that instructed all of them in the art and discipline of music.
There will be another version of the Jazz combo next year – just as there will be another version of ‘Caravan’ by Duke Ellington – but this is one that will linger in the memory with a special, subtle glow.