Real Book, British Invasion take live performance in new directions

by: CHESANIE BRANTLEY/Editor-in-Chief

Classic rock and smooth jazz are not usually the combination of music one would expect at a concert.

But the Real Book and British Invasion concert held in Tom T. Hall in the Commercial Music Building on the Levelland campus on Oct. 22 featured just that.

The first to take the stage was Real Book. The band is instructed by Brent Wheeler, assistant professor of commercial music. The band members are: Anthony Briones, vocals; Anna Brown, vocals and piano; Sarah Haines, vocals; Gina Scott, vocals; Jayson Owens, guitar; Jake Stephenson, drums; and Wheeler on bass guitar.

Real Book’s setlist included “People Will Say,” “Love,” “Come Away With Me,” “It Don’t Mean A Thing,” “Cockeyed Optimist,” “Peel Me A Grape,” “Just Like Heaven,” “Take The A Train,” “Dance With Me Until the End,” “Don’t Wait Too Long” and “The ‘In’ Crowd.”

“A few years before I got here, there was a jazz guitarist who had started (the Real Book band), and it had gone through a few instructors before it got to me,” said Wheeler.

Wheeler said that he took over Real Book around fall of 2007. He explains that his main style to play is jazz, so when the opportunity came up to instruct the band, he had already started a vocal jazz ensemble.

“I started it just to give the singers here something different,” explained Wheeler. “A lot of them are just singing country. Some of them are singing rock, some are singing bluegrass, and they were looking for a different opportunity to sing.”

When the position opened up, Wheeler said he petitioned and explained the direction he wanted to go with the band. Since it is an audition band, he said he had more of an opportunity to challenge and push singers to be better.

When auditioning for the band, Wheeler said there are certain things he looks for. “I’m really not looking for a big range in tone,” he explained. “I’m really just looking for a unique sound. One of the best things about this genre of music is it promotes individuality.”

Wheeler said, during auditions, he keeps an open mind about the sound of each individual. He said he does not go into the auditions with a predetermined sound in mind for the semester.

The influences behind the way the band performs are previous jazz artists.

“It (jazz) is more built on individualism,” said Wheeler. “We really hold true to that and watch previous artists to see how they conduct themselves on stage.”

British Invasion plays ’60s music Tom. T. Hall on Oct. 22. BRANDI ORTIZ/PLAINSMAN PRESS

Wheeler said some of the favorite songs from this setlist are: “Take the A Train,” which was sung by Haines, and “The ‘In’ Crowd,” sung by Briones.

Wheeler also explained that they just started selecting new songs for their next performance on Dec. 2 during Groove Fest. He said they are planning on performing more Christmas songs in the next show, because it is fun to try and jazz them up.

“Not to let the cat out of the bag, but songs like “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “Christmas Time is Here,” the Charlie Brown theme song, and we haven’t picked the non-Christmas songs yet,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler explained that when the band is selecting songs for their performances, there is a democracy set up. He said he gives the students songs and artists that he thinks best suit their style and tone, then he asks them to bring back what they would like to have in the show.

“I really listen to the songs, and listen to what they can do as a singer, and see if it’s within the level,” Wheeler said. “There are times when I’ve said, ‘Well, we’re not quite there yet; maybe our next concert.’”

Like Real Book, the British Invasion band also has a sort of democracy when it comes to choosing songs.

According to Steve Williams, instructor in commercial music, he asks his students to submit songs that they would like to play, and then he ultimately decides which ones go into the show.

The setlist for British Invasion includes: “Satisfaction,” “So Happy Together,” “End of the World,” “Ticket to Ride,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” “Get Off of My Cloud” and “My Generation.”

Williams took over a country band around eight years ago and decided to change things up and create the Beatles/Eagles Tribute band.

“That movie, “Across the Universe,” which is a Beatles movie, came out, and that brought popularity up, so I thought I’ll do a Beatles ensemble this semester,” explains Williams.

British Invasion was previously known as the Beatles/Eagles Tribute band. Williams decided to change the name this semester.

“The British invasion was really important in music history,” explained Williams. “That’s what changed everything.”

Williams also explained that changing the band to British Invasion opened up more of a variety of music. Instead of only playing Beatles and Eagles songs, they can now play anything from 1964 to 1968.

The members of British Invasion include: Kassidy Barnes, guitar and vocals; Mylon Hembree, vocals; Kindle Hunt, guitar and vocals; Austin McManus, guitar and vocals; Corey Sherley, drums; Darren Welch, bass guitar; and Williams on guitar.

British Invasion also is an audition band and, according to Williams, when he looks at students, he pays attention to their strengths and talents.

“As far as guitar players, I look for those who have chord knowledge and can play lead,” said Williams. “For singers, of course good vocals, but harmony, is very important. Not everybody can sing harmony.”

British Invasion will also be making an appearance during Fest Week at the Tom T. Hall Recording Production Studio in the Commercial Music Building on Dec. 2.

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