MUSIC BOX: Swingin’ the Showroom and Hot Summer Tix

By on April 19, 2016

Jazz Foundation of JH going strong, Pink Garter and Center Theater announce upcoming shows.

Jazz Foundation’s JH Big Band will get the joint swinging at the Silver Dollar Showroom this weekend.

Jazz Foundation’s JH Big Band will get the joint swinging at the Silver Dollar Showroom this weekend.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Look around for relics of the 1930s and you’ll find little that packs the girth of human emotional punch as big band-era jazz. While the genre was entering new phases of sophistication, the development of swing had a central purpose that rallied communities. Unlike other forms of music at the time, swing was something you could dance to. It was such a formative time for music culture, but also blurred the lines for race relations when racial integration was not yet accepted by society. Benny Goodman’s multiple interracial bands of 1935 pushed that envelope. Years later, jazz remains a symbolic fist pump of American energy and resilience.

Here we are more than 80 years later and the Jazz Foundation of Jackson Hole’s Big Band is enjoying one of its strongest eras since forming in 1992. It was initially an off-the-cuff idea. Now the all-volunteer, 18-piece ensemble now has several rotating vocalists, and maintains professionalism while providing an outlet for players of varying demographics.

“We have really strong membership right now,” said Big Band leader Jason Fritts, who has been directing since 2004, less a two-year hiatus. “There have been instances over the years where certain songs had to be sacrificed because of attendance, but that’s not the case these days. We have great vocalists Tasha Ghozali, Jay Wright (who also plays sax), and Henry Williams, and [we] make space for powerful ballads for each of them to really shine on. The repertoire has always depended on who we have, but there’s always that up-tempo swing side of the song list.”

As the honeymoon phase of the renovated Silver Dollar Showroom fades, its first spring off-season finds several new groups gracing the stage. While there’s been a handful of Dixieland and jazz combos in the venue over the years, the Jazz Foundation’s upcoming two-night run further breaks the mold of country, rock and Americana dance bands that frequent the historical watering hole. And while there will be plenty of gems from the jazz standards book, expect some modern arrangements as well.

“The Wort is big on dancing and so are we. We always try to get the dance crowd going and some of the contemporary tunes like Cherry Poppin’ Daddies’ ‘Zuit Suit Riot’ are good for that,” Fritts said. “Eddie Buchanan has also arranged some great songs for us like ‘Crazy,’ ‘Vehicle’ by Ides of March, and Squirrel Nut Zippers’ ‘Hell.’”

These days, big bands are the cornerstone of the curriculum for many college and university jazz programs in the U.S. and Canada. Since around 1970, this post-bop educational era has produced both career musicians and players that simply love the camaraderie, power, and feel of a big band. It’s a good thing that founder Ron VanHorsen, along with his friends Mr. Blackford and Martin Hagen, had the impetus to start such a group in Jackson. The band is always welcoming guests and potential new members to its rehearsals on Wednesday nights, 7 to 9 p.m. at the Center for the Arts.

“It’s been a real pleasure conducting this group,” added Fritts.

Jazz Foundation of JH Big Band, 7:30 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Silver Dollar Showroom. Free. 732-3939.

Hot summer tickets

 Les Claypool and Sean Lennon are Claypool Lennon Delirium, dropping in at the Pink Garter July 25.

Les Claypool and Sean Lennon are Claypool Lennon Delirium, dropping in at the Pink Garter July 25.

Our two local theaters have announced a few shows with early advance ticket sales. Being staged at the Pink Garter Theatre, there’s already a buzz on the street for The Claypool Lennon Delirium (July 25, $45; on sale now). The fusion of abstract talents features the product of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, multi-instrumentalist Sean Lennon, along with the freak stew bassist that is Les Claypool. Also slated for the Garter is L.A.’s Fitz and the Tantrums (Aug. 31, $53-$63; on sale now), bringing danceable pop hooks with hopped-up tempos. Get more information at PinkGarterTheatre.com.

The Center for the Arts recently announced monster vocalist and folk-rocker Brandi Carlile for it’s annual fundraiser at Center Theater. Carlile headlined Sunday of Targhee Fest last summer. Tickets go on sale at JHCenterForTheArts.org and in person at noon on May 11. Cost is $395 for orchestra seating, $295 in the first two rows of the balcony, and $195 for the balcony seats in the third row and beyond. PJH

Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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About Aaron Davis

Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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