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Tuesday, June 14, 2011


So, Sunday afternoon was a huge treat. The Pennsylvania JazzSociety presented Kevin Dorn and his Big 72 (click for more info) at the Moose Lodge in Easton. Dorn, a native New Yorker, used to call his band the Traditional Jazz Collective. Why he changed it is something you would have to ask him.

Dorn is one of the most talented jazz drummers in the country. From 2002 – 2004 he was the drummer for Jim Cullum’s Jazz Band, heard weekly on NPR’s Riverwalk: Live from the Landing. By way of full disclosure, he also frequently filled in as the drummer for the 2008 showcase production of my musical comedy Ukulele Land (Terry Waldo composer). Plenty of people have lauded Dorn’s drumming, and let me add my own praise. The guy is solid and, to coin a phrase, doesn’t miss a beat

Also in the band on Sunday was 3-time Emmy winner J. WalterHawkes, my former band mate and always a pal, on trombone and vocals. Walter is one of the most active jazz t-bone players in the city these days. You can hear him on Nora Jones’
2007 CD Not Too Late; or on our collaborative effort Ukulele Street by the New York Ukulele Ensemble. Walter is a dedicated ukulele player as well as brilliant composer and t-bone player.

Pete Martinez, the clarinetist and a vocalist with Dorn’s band, is also a ukulele player. We almost got him into the NY ensemble but then he called away to Iraq, as an Army reservist, thanks to George Bush. Thankfully he got home safe and is back making music. Sunday’s outing proved him to be an ever outstanding talent. His playing is smooth and sweet, with flawless tone.

Simon Wettenhall was on trumpet and vocals at the Moose Lodge. It was the first time, for me, hearing this cat. All I can say is awesome, right on the money, and he knows how to run the front line so that the solos shine and everyone plays off of and in support of each other. You can see Simon sitting and playing next to Woody Allen in this video..

Jesse Gelber is one of the tastiest, most talented young pianists tackling the trad jazz oeuvre today. Search for Gelber and Manning on YouTube to see/hear him and his girlfriend Kate making music.  You gotta love these kids!

Kelly Friesen was on double bass and was up to snuff, and way beyond. His solos were perfect combo of melody, rhythm and energy. (Cameo photo unavailable.).

This is a blog so my tendency is to keep it short (well, most of the time). But oodles could be written about the playing of any one of these musicians’ playing individually.   

Kevin Dorn started the three set concert by saying they were there to just play jazz - no costumes, no gimmicks. Man, did they ever play some jazz. These guys know how to put it across the way it is meant to be played. 

What a pleasure to hear them at the PA Jazz Society, where everyone is respectul and quiet throughout. Dorn's band often plays at the Garage on Seventh Avenue South in the Village. But that place is loud and people there seem to consider music acoustic wall paper. On Sunday, after three hours of music with nary a whisper from the audience during the performances, the band got a much deserved standing ovation.

So, back to my question at the top of this post – Is this the best Dixieland Jazz band playing today? They’re young, fit, high energy and possessed of talent and love for the music. Go see them and decide for yourself, if you get the chance. It’s unclear how often Dorn gets this particular line up together, but if you ever get word that’s happening, don’t wait. Beat feet to where the music is happening. And man, do these cats make it happen!

Thanks for a great show, guys! And thank for keeping the music alive. The planet needs you!

(Thanks once again to Lynn Redmile for her first class snaps with the camera, as often is the case these days on this blog.)

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic snaps. This is more exciting and even more inspirational shots for a musician and also for music lovers.