In 2011, Chaz Cabrera, Marc Encabo, Tyler Kreutel, Josh Vasquez, Hiram Garza, and John Avery —a group of close friends at San Diego Creative and Performing Arts High School—were having a lot of fun in the school’s big band. They hadn’t planned on doing more with their music beyond the big band until they followed a teacher’s recommendation and entered a national competition called SchoolJam USA, competing for the title of “Best Teen Band in the USA.” 

They entered the contest as a six-piece ensemble called Jazz Avenue, but didn’t think they had much of a chance, with over 100 bands competing and with jazz as their genre, but they made it to the finals and got a chance to compete on Disney’s Downtown Stage in Anaheim. At the end of the contest, host Greyson Chance announced, “the winner is … Jazz Avenue,” and the crowd went wild. 

Because of their win, they won $5000 for the school, recorded on the John Lennon Tour bus, attended the NAMM Show, toured in Germany, published their first album, got tons of publicity, gained many fans, and were performing at lots of venues. But then came a big transition: high school graduation and college. Many in the band left town to pursue college studies, and Jazz Avenue was put on hiatus for a couple of years.

In 2015, the band received a call from a movie director, Patrick Scott. Patrick was filming a documentary about Jazz Avenue’s former high school classmate, Terrence Patridge, and Patrick wanted Jazz Avenue to perform with Terrence for a segment of the film. With the money they made from their documentary work, Jazz Avenue decided to record a Christmas EP and try to make a comeback. 

At the time of the EP recording, Jazz Avenue original members John Avery and Hiram Garza were touring with other bands; for that reason, and to reflect more what the band is now about, they changed the band’s name to The Reo Collective. The Reo Collective’s core members—Chaz, Marc, Josh, and Tyler—collaborate regularly with other musicians for a constantly changing lineup.  “Our purpose is to create music without a boundary to a specific genre and to collaborate with many musicians to create whatever art we want,” says Chaz.

The newly dubbed The Reo Collective recorded their EP Christmas Time at Studio West—tracking in Studio A and mixing in Studio C— with Daniel Bourget, a graduate of The Recording Arts Center’s Music Production Degree Program, engineering. “Daniel is the most chilliest, professional, and all around greatest guy in the world,” Chaz says. “He knows exactly what I’m looking for in terms of mixing something,  is easy to work with, and works his ass off. He is basically the sound wizard and is very versatile at handling a full amount of genres.”

Their Christmas EP has songs written by various band members. The song “Blue Winter,” written by Chaz, is the first to be made into a video. “We hope that our music, be it Jazz, R&B, Neo Soul, or folk, moves the body and soul,” says Chaz, “and maybe even inspires people to pursue whatever their dreams are.”