Monday, January 29, 2018 / by Sean Zanganeh
It was while in college at San Diego State more than three decades ago that Ira Liss started the Big Band Jazz Machine.
On Sunday, Liss will lead his 18-piece big band with guest saxophonist Eric Marienthal at the Bernardo Winery.
While the band is a regular contender for "best jazz band" in the San Diego Music Awards, and is one of the county's longest-running musical groups.
A real estate agent specializing in probate sales, Liss said that while he enjoys his day job, the music is what he feeds off.
"Most musicians that I know love to play music because it's a challenge, and that's the way I approach the big band ---- it's the repertoire we play. We play a lot of cutting-edge, modern repertoire. We also play traditional big band stuff, but the guys like the challenging songs.
"Probably three-fourths of the band have day jobs, whether ... they are teachers or some other profession ---- but it's still a professional band. We still go out and do professional dates. We've done three CDs already, and we're working on our fourth."
And after so long a run in the local area, Liss said the outfit is a known commodity among jazz players.
"The band has a great reputation in town; musicians like playing in the band. Finding subs is not really an issue."
Lending to what he called the band's challenging repertoire is the depth of the band's playlist: Liss says he has more than 14,000 arrangements in his collection.
"I can pick out music for any event, from a concert to a jazz festival to a wedding to a swing dance. It really makes no difference.
Liss also gave a handful of other inspirations, from the classic big band sounds of Basie and Ellington up through the present.
"Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich, Rob McConnell, Bob Florence, Gordon Goodwin. Those are a lot of the ones I really admire a lot. Bob Florence was a gem of a guy, had a super-great band, knew how to write. And today you have Gordon Goodwin."
With a fourth CD in the works, and what he described as the tightest lineup he's had, Liss said the future looks as good as ever:
"I don't see anything slowing down with it ---- it just keeps getting better and better."
**article credit to NC Times**
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