Firecracker Jazz Band creates old Dixieland with new style

Published 10:22 am Friday, August 22, 2008

FJB gramophone fisheye 2008 Asheville Mardi Gras Parade (photo submitted).jpg&bsp;Would you explain for the readers how you became a member of this band? In February 2003, the original drummer Bill Smith, was asked by the owner of Tressa&39;s night club in Asheville, to put together a Dixieland band for a Mardi Gras party at the club. Bill called me to play trombone. We played twice more at Tressa&39;s when they stopped having Dixieland at the club. The band started up again in October when we had a steady Thursday night at a Cajun Restaurant in Asheville and the band developed from there. How does this band compare to others that you&39;ve played with over the years? I played many genres of music in my career including a show band at a big hotel in the Catskill Mountains in New York State where we backed up the biggest names in show business. This is by far the best small group I&39;ve ever played with.&bsp; Do you feel like name dropping some of the &uot;biggest names in show business&uot; or are you going to leave me hanging? Some of the big names, which are numerous, are Barbara Streisand, Sammy Davis Jr., Cab Calloway, Steve Lawrence & Edie Gorme, Mel Torme, Connie Francis, Wayne Newton&bsp;and list goes on and on. In all humbleness, you understand. Firecracker Jazz Band has played different types of festivals from Bonnaroo to the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee over the last few years, which are you&39;re favorites and why? My two favorites are the Seaside Jazz Festival in Seaside, Oregon and the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee in Sacramento, CA. At these two festivals we were playing alongside some of the best Dixieland Bands in the country and we saw that the quality of our band is right up there with the best of them. It did wonders for our confidence and has inspired us to continue striving to improve. I understand you&39;ve been invited back to both West Coast Jazz Jubilees, how does that fit into the growth of you band? We have been invited back to both festivals. Due to our performances in Sacramento, we&39;ve been invited to the Redwood Coast Jazz Festival in Eureka, CA in March, 2009 and the Suncoast Jazz Festival in Largo, FL in November, 2009. We&39;re striving to build up our participation on the jazz festival circuit.&bsp; Does your fan base fit a certain age range or is there a type of audience that you feel the band is better suited for? Our fan base appears to be very diverse and seems to appeal to all age groups. It has to be the energy of our music. Our style is not the old traditional Dixieland style. What is your favorite kind of audience to perform for? Our favorite kind of audience is one that is receptive to our performance. I know this might seem a simplistic answer, but a receptive audience really charges us up and we tend to respond with much energy.&bsp; What are your plans for the next album? We are going into the recording studio at the beginning of October to record our third album. We will have some original tunes as well as traditional Dixieland tunes. We&39;re adding a guest Saxophone player whom we&39;re flying in from Tucson, Arizona. We met him at the Sacramento Jazz Festival where he performed with his band from Arizona. He sat in with us at a few of our shows and we all seemed to be a perfect match. So he accepted our invitation. May I mention Kelland Thomas&squo; name? You can mention his name.&bsp; Kelland Thomas holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in Saxophone Performance from University of Michigan and is an Associate Professor of Music at the University of Arizona. He played at the jubilee with the Original Wildcat Jass Band, but has a diverse list of performance credits from chamber music to lead tenor in the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra. On your last album there were a few original tunes written by you, yet they seem to blend with the traditional jazz songs, what is the process for creating these tunes? You get a melody in your head&bsp;that matches the style of music we play. In the process, you develop the melody and add the appropriate chord changes, and when I&39;m satisfied with the result, I have a tune.&bsp; I heard that the next CD may contain a couple of original tunes by your pianist Reese Gray? Do you also have some new tunes lined up for the band? I have about twenty-two more tunes that I&39;ve written for the band. I&39;m hoping we can pick another one or two to include on our next album. What is the process your band uses to rehearse and put together new tunes or resurrect old favorites? When we decide on a tune, we play through it a few times, using the Dixieland form and then ideas begin to form regarding the arrangement we want. We start with the basic tune and build from there. Everyone in the band has input.&bsp; You mention that your style isn&39;t &uot;old traditional Dixieland&uot; yet you are writing tunes in that style. Do you feel there rules you have to follow and rules you choose to break, or is it more of a musician&39;s instinct or jazzman&39;s whim kind of thing? We play &uot;old traditional Dixieland Music&uot; but we have our own style and interpretation, so I try and write tunes in the old traditional style but play the tunes in our own style of Dixieland. An example of what I mean would be if one band plays Sweet Georgia Brown at a moderate tempo and it&39;s in a more laid back fashion compared to when we play it fast, bright and energetic. We&39;re both playing traditional Dixieland but in a different way. We&39;re still utilizing the instruments in the Dixieland fashion. Like trumpet plays melody, trombone improvises a counter-melody and so on. Where are you in the process of recording? There&39;s a possibility we may be recording in a studio in Como, Mississippi. It&39;s owned by Jimbo Mathus from the Squirrel Nut Zippers. &bsp; I heard a rumor there were a couple of songs from the first album that are getting reworked. Is there anything you can share about those? We are planning to redo a tune from our first recording because we have a different arrangement of it and it includes two of our tunes as a medley. We feel it&39;s a real super arrangement and deserves another shot. Can you disclose anything about any of the tunes that are coming up in your repertoire, or is it a secret? We&39;re going to keep the new recording tunes a secret for now. &bsp; What is needed to complete that process? To complete the process, we need to all be satisfied with at least one take of each tune and then we have a master copy made and send it out to be duplicated. We also will need to work on the case and all of the artwork and information to be included. Did you know that Tryon is working toward putting together a Nina Simone Jazz Festival? I think it&39;s a wonderful idea to hold a music festival in Tryon. It would be a tremendous tribute to Nina Simone and it would give a big boost to Tryon&39;s economy as well as providing a cultural experience for the citizens and &dquo;out of towners&dquo; who might attend. It also showcases local musicians and bands as well as the possibility of bringing in out of town bands. Just look at what Bele Chere does for Asheville&39;s economy at the end of July. Get ready to dance the night away when Firecracker Jazz Band plays in Tryon this Friday August 22 at Rogers Park. A nifty duo of gifted musicians The Stereofidelics will be opening. Admission is free, but your donation at the gate helps to fund quality live music performances for our community.&bsp;

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