"When we started we were just kids," says Trinh, 22. "We didn't know anything about the scene, the competition or how to book acts. We learned the hard way." Trinh worked with energy, imagination and flexibility, delivering some great musical performances, all too often for a small, if select, crowd.
Trinh's energy was on display when his Upper East Side Big Band took the stage. The 18-member group includes a cross section of the area's best players, including many once or current VCU players like soul-tinged vocalist/pianist Adrian Duke. Their set included classic Ellington tunes and other standards with uncluttered arrangements crafted to provide solo spotlights for individual players. In the hard-blowing unison sections in such a small space, the massed horns had visceral punch. (It's not surprising that jazz bands were the heavy metal of the pre-amplified era.) In a blur of action at the front, saxophonist Trinh conducted with fierce, insistent joy.
Before the night was over Trinh led applause for his mentors, VCU professors Doug Richards and Skip Gailes, and plugged Duke's and his upcoming Big Band CD (on his newly formed label, "Giggity"). He also brought his parents up for the curtain call.
The club may be closing, but for Trinh and his youthful collaborators, the night had the bittersweet air of graduation. Peter McElhinney
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