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Jazz Juvenocracy

Jazz Juvenocracy...A Feature Documentary  in Development

"As long as there are 10-year-olds starting their own bands and communities to support them, jazz is here to stay."  -Bit Risner,  Co-Founder  Jazz Juvenocracy

2006...Alex (Sax), Rodney (Drums), and Bit (Trumpet) play their first gig in front of Whole Foods, Sarasota, Florida.

Jazz Juvenocracy, started by Alex Hernandez, Rodney Rocques, and Bit Risner , when she was 10 years old, has in the last six years evolved into a group of Sarasota-area high school jazz musicians who are making an international name for themselves.  It’s not just their impressive talent and accomplishment so early in life that makes them the coolest of kids, but how they push boundaries, and eagerly defy expectations, tackling what might seem out of their league, even at the risk of falling short.

2013 Jazz Juvenocracy. Bit, now 16, is the only original Juvie remaining with the group.

The current group includes Bit Risner, Trumpet and Vocals; Ronan Cowan, Drums/Percussion; Mario Santana, Violin/Sax; Thomas Shepard, Tenor Sax; Mackenzie Gray, Guitar; Lamont Kaiser, Bass; and Aaron Lehrian, Piano/Keyboards.

Bit Risner, has ventured into vocals the past couple of years, and according to Carrie Seidman , the Sarasota Herald Tribune  music and performance critic, “She tends to bridle when people praise her singing more than her playing, but I give kudos to both. Her skill, range and emotion in a largely solo rendition of "Angel Eyes” was electric, as she coaxed her horn from growling lows to piercing highs.

On tour, doing the European Jazz Festival circuit....

Other comments from Seidman covering the “Juvies” talent and style include, “Mario Santana set a blistering pace on violin in "Lime House Blues" and showed facility on the clarinet in "West End Blues." Lamont Kaiser was a steady, soulful presence on bass and Ronan Cowan on drums switched easily from the percussive punctuations of "I've Got Rhythm" to the erratic pacing of Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk," in an arrangement by guitarist Mackenzie Gray, a infallible contributor throughout.  As for pianist Aaron Lehrian, is there anything this kid can't play? While he was clearly more comfortable with ballads ("My Foolish Heart") than ragtime (Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag"), he's clearly a beautiful blend of a classical pianist's perfectionism and a jazz musician's innovation.”

Vienne Jazz Festival, July 3, 2013

Over the six-year history of Jazz Juvenocracy, the band lost one or two players each year, some to college, some to geography,  a few that just weren’t a good fit. Only Mario Santana, who joined the band in 2012, and Bit Risner, an original founder, have been along for the entire ride. This year, five out of the seven current members are leaving, placing the future of the “Juvies” as they are called in jeopardy. 

The "Juvies" played their last stateside gig together June 28th, 2013 in Sarasota. This demo-shot video featurees their entire rendition of "Caravan".

With one last European jazz tour swing about to be completed, (link to tour dates) including an invitation to play at the prestigious North Sea Festival in Rotterdam, only time will tell. It’s probably up to Bit, now a junior in high school, and looking forward to entry into New York’s Julliard School of Music, to decide what the future holds for the Juvenocracy.

That’s the story for this feature documentary, now in development.


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