“It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing”: Chameleon at Essentially Ellington 2019

In 2019 the Newark Academy Jazz Program, directed by Julius Tolentino, performed for its 5th time at the prestigious Essentially Ellington Festival. This excerpt, “It Don’t Mean a Thing (if it ain’t got that Swing),” features vocalist Sammi Powell ’19.

Sammi Powell performing with Chameleon Jazz Band at Essentially Ellington 2019

Newark Academy prides itself on its strong arts programs, including Visual Arts, Dance, Film, Theatre, and Vocal and Instrumental Music. Its jazz band, Chameleon, has been involved in state and national competitions, placing first in New Jersey’s State Jazz Band Competition the last nine years (2010-2018), the Mingus Competition (2014, 2015), and the Mid Atlantic Jazz Festival (2018). Chameleon has been one of the fifteen finalists in the prestigious Essentially Ellington Festival and Competition in 2012, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Members of the big band are also involved in other auditioned groups such as Jazz House Kids, Jazz for Teens, Jazz Regions, Jazz All States, Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, and the Grammy Session Band. The band is honored to have had the opportunity to work with talented clinicians such as Eddie Bert, Vincent Gardner, Steve Turre, Victor Goines, Steve Davis, David Gibson, Bob Cranshaw, Alvin Atkinson, Marcus Printup, Kenny Rampton, Andre Hayward, and Ali Jackson to name a few.

Saxophonist and educator Julius Tolentino has been a staple of the New York jazz scene for over 20 years. In this capacity, he has played and recorded with numerous small groups and big bands including Louis Haye’s Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band and the Louis Hayes Quartet, Eric Reed’s Sextet, Jeremy Pelt’s Quintet, Natalie Cole, Wycliffe Gordon, Connie Francis, Gloria Gaynor, the Illinois Jacquet Big Band, the Christian McBride Big Band, Cecile Mclorin, Michael Feinstein, Dianne Reeves, Jimmy Heath, the Count Basie Orchestra and the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

A graduate of the Hartt School of Music, Julius studied with NEA Jazz Master and alto saxophone legend Jackie McLean, who introduced him to his second musical father, Illinois Jacquet. He has played in top jazz venues and festivals throughout the United States, including Lincoln Center, the Newport Jazz Festival, Tanglewood, the Village Vanguard, Birdland, Blue Note, the Jazz Standard and Dizzy’s Coca Cola. As a leader, his debut album, “Just the Beginning,” on the Sharp Nine label, reached No. 8 on the jazz charts in 2006.

Renowned as a gifted music educator, “Mr. T” has worked with hundreds of students nationwide. He joined Newark Academy in Livingston, New Jersey, as jazz director in 2007, and currently conducts five nationally known student ensembles. He also holds positions at the New Jersey Youth Symphony as director of the NJYS Jazz Orchestra, and Jazz at Lincoln Center as a middle school jazz academy director as well as a JALC traveling clinician.

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