Primary Instrument: Band/orchestra
Founded in 1991, the Jazz Arts Big Band is truly unique in America’s musical landscape as one of a few nonprofit repertory jazz organizations. The Jazz Arts Big Band has grown and flourished under the tender loving care of its staff, board and artistic leadership in an era that has firmly rejected big band dominance and sound. Current Music Director, Kyle Mack, the band’s director since 1995, programs a wide variety of popular and challenging works for the band, all while preparing the band for the musical challenges presented by the spectacular line-up of guest soloists that have graced the stage for all of the Jazz Arts Big Band’s history.
The band’s membership includes Saxophonists Russ Peterson, Harley Sommerfeld, Matt Patnode, John DiFiore, Josh Argall, Trumpets Tom Strait, Jeremy Brekke, Jesse Braunagel, Jon Lucht, Trombones Nat Dickey, Chris Hansen, Ed Christianson Ed Huttlin, and Pianist Dave Ferreira, Guitarist Tom Carvell, Bassist Alex Pershounin and Drummer Allen Carter.
Over the years, the band has had the good fortune to perform with many of the finest jazz artists on the American Jazz scene. Far from accidental, this roster of spectacular artists has been due to the savvy and just plain hard work of founder Robert C. Anderson. A partial list of the artists includes violinist Johnny Frigo, pianist/vocalist Marlena Shaw, vocalist Kevin Mahogany, pianist Gene Harris, guitarist Charlie Byrd (our very first guest artist), saxophonist Bob Mintzer and Jimmy Heath, trumpeters Byron Stripling, Conti Condoli and Wayne Bergeron, clarinetist Buddy DeFranco, and drummer Louie Bellson. (Whew….there have been so many and we have such great concerts over the years, it’s hard to believe. Kudos to Bob for all of his good work here. It never would have happened without his guidance and leadership).
In 1998, the band made its first recording, “And That’s That”. The CD included wonderful vocal performances by Minneapolis/St. Paul artist Connie Evingson and a couple colorful arrangements by Paul Severson, a long time friend of the music scene in our area, alongside other great pieces from the band’s repertoire.
The Jazz Arts Band has always valued its educational mission as highly as its performing and entertaining side. Each year, the band holds several annual events including the Early Bird workshop (a side by side workshop with many of the area school jazz bands) master classes with all guest artists and the History of Jazz concerts presented to all area fifth grade public school students (that’s about 2,000 kids annually folks) in partnership with the public schools’ Learning Bank Program.
So here we are, looking both at the future and the past, knowing that jazz’s future is secure in the Fargo-Moorhead area due in no small part to the existence of this organization. Thanks to all who have supported us in the past, and to all who continue to support us. We’ll see you at the concert!