As the auditorium became pitch black, everyone in the audience fell into silence and braced themselves for what Dan Bukvich had in store for them this year at Jazz NIC.
Then the lights flooded the stage, and instead of being behind a piece of percussion, Bukvich was behind a microphone. As the bass and drums quietly played, members of the audience began to draw their attention to the two people lying on the center-front of the stage.
Bukvich then began to narrate the story of two brother princes, Al-io (played by guest performer Al Gemberling) and Gary-o (played by guest performer Gary Gemberling). The comedic “Bopera” began to play out, starting with the two brothers crying like babies in harmony.
They then rose, and received a trumpet and a trombone to play. Bukvich narrated that they would wander through the village, playing their instruments, then the Gemberling brothers began walking through the aisles in the audience, playing their instruments.
Once they returned to the stage, Bukvich said they did the unthinkable: they broke out plungers and used them on the ends of their trumpet and saxophone to make wah-wahs that sounded like the teacher from the Peanuts films.
The two brothers were then stripped of their instruments and cast away. To bring them back, Bukvich told the audience they had to participate by doing what he said. At one point, the audience members were all standing on one leg, hunching over, flapping their arms and cawing.
Once the brothers returned to the stage with their instruments, they closed out the night with the full band accompanying their harmonies. The audience cheered on and on as the band finished out the night.
“We always do something crazy,” said Dan Bukvich, performance guest of the evening and long-time University of Idaho music professor. “Usually it involves me playing drums on whatever they bring out, so this was like payback because I never know what they’re going to do.”
The NIC Jazz Ensemble, with all its saxophones, trumpets, trombones, piano, guitar, bass and drums, provided a spectacular evening of jazz music at the annual Jazz NIC event on Feb. 7, held in the Schuler Performing Arts Center. They performed various pieces, ranging from “Critics Choice” to “Route 66.”
“It’s always great coming up to NIC,” Bukvich siad. “It’s super fun, and you guys always take great care of us.”
In the midst of the songs, the ensemble threw comedic songs into the mix. During the song “Four Brothers,” they brought in singers Gary Gemberling, Jon Brownell, Max Mendez and Mark Petty. The four took turns going into solos, except when it would come to Petty’s solo. They would prepare to go into his solo, then quickly pass over his into the next solo.
During one point of the song, they excluded the newcomer Mark Petty as the other three stood close together and sang, “Three brothers! Three brothers!” The audience laughed as Petty tried to push through the three.
“There was a lot of good musical talent, and I really loved the singing part”, said Danielle Grist, high school student at Post Falls High School. “It was so fun and so interactive.”
Performers were able to display each of their own unique talent during instrument solos in the concert. During “Critics Choice,” each saxophone player in the band got a chance to stand up and perform a solo. The crowd cheered for every saxophone player, as every single one of them pulled off something unique and technically difficult.
Gary Gemberling also performed some amazing solos, both instrumentally and vocally. His voice flowed throughout the auditorium when he sang “God Bless the Child.” He hit highs and lows that not every singer could, and he didn’t miss a beat.
But then Gemberling took it a step further. He picked up one horn, and played it with one hand and picked up a second one and played it with his other hand. Then he simultaneously played both horns, each playing two different sets of notes.
“Every time, I always think, ‘What are they going to do next time? How can they top that?,’” said Leeann Aerlyn-Moore, an attendee at the event. She has experienced multiple performances at Jazz NIC events over the years.
“I’ve never been disappointed,” she said.