Tabernash / Live Music: Jazz band a ‘music museum’ recreating sound of the past
For half a century, the Queen City Jazz Band has kept its focus on performing the classic sounds of New Orleans-style Dixieland jazz. The Grand County Concert Series continues its fifth season tonight with the group, whose lineup changes but whose original passion has not.
The group was formed in 1957, after Denver DJ, Harney Peterson, asked listeners to help him find musicians to form a band. He and his wife opened their home for jam sessions and shortly after, the QCJB spread its wings. Learning new tunes directly from traditional jazz recordings, the band played weekends for the next 14 years.
The current group maintains that same philosophy. Musicians re-create the music with respect for the classic style. Members set to perform tonight are: John Bartmann (trumpet), Eric Staffeldt (trombone), reedman John Bredenberg (clarinet/saxophone), Marl Shanahan (drums), Rory Thomas (banjo), Ray Leake (piano), Shelley McMillion (vocals) and Bill Clark (tuba). Many of them served in the U.S. Armed Forces and most are educators in the music field. Clark, band leader, said the group is like a “musical museum,” recreating jazz arrangements “with the original spirit and authenticity.”
Over 50 years, the band has produced more than 25 recordings. The ensemble, which has been honored by the state legislature, two governors, two mayors and the Denver City Council for its cultural contributions, is said to have become a Colorado musical institution.
As part of the band’s visit, the GCCS is pleased to present a clinic at Middle Park High School during the day (for jazz band members of MPHS and East Grand Middle School). MPHS band director Eric Simondsen has been working with the GCCS board to jointly sponsor and fund the venture. After the informative presentation, the MPHS jazz band will join the QCJ that evening to open for the show (at 6:40 p.m.)
GCCS has been committed to adding dimension to the East Grand School District’s music department. The board sponsored an educational program with Marcel and Elizabeth Bergmann last year. For this school season, the GCCS inquired with MPHS and EGMS music teachers about what it could do to help the schools’ music programs and the idea for the jazz clinic was born. Students not only learn about the
instruments, music and business, but are invited to attend any of the GCCS concerts in the series. Those who would like to attend the evening show may reserve space by calling (970) 887-0339.
Clark said they’ll be teaching about the style and history of jazz, and especially about improvisation, helping them “make their own music, allowing them to be composers and performers at the same time.” Members of the QCJB, he said, hope to keep all the styles of jazz alive, “and to do it with quality.”
The Grand County Concert Series hosts complimentary dessert receptions with the artists after concerts. Proceeds help bring in top artists, as well as students to those concerts and performers into the local schools. Upcoming performances include the Colorado (University) Light Opera Feb. 27, Veronika String Quartet March 27,
Bergmann Piano Duo April 10, and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra Woodwind Quintet May 15.
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