Primary Instrument: Trumpet
The Mike Vax Jazz Orchestra & The Mike Vax Big Band
Is there anyone crazy enough to lead one big band, let alone two? The answer is yes, he’s Mike Vax! Mike is the Director of The Mike Vax Jazz Orchestra (MVJO), and The Mike Vax Big Band (MVBB).
The Mike Vax Jazz Orchestra The current MVJO (formerly the New Oakland Jazz Orchestra) is made up of musicians from many of the most famous big bands, such as: Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Duke Ellington, Clark Terry, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Cab Calloway, Ray McKinley, and Tex Beneke. These musicians are some of the finest to reside in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Mike Vax Big Band The Mike Vax Big Band features alumni from the 1952 - 1978 Stan Kenton Orchestra. The Band performs some of the well known music of the Stan Kenton Orchestra; plus keeping with Stan’s insistence on not just performing nostalgia type music, it also performs fresh new material written in the Kenton style, as well as original material written by members of the Band. The MVBB is not trying to be the “Stan Kenton Orchestra,” but is carrying on his tradition of dedication to creative music, and to jazz education. The Band tours around the United States every other year.
Leader Mike Vax is a product of the City of Oakland, California and the Oakland Public Schools, having graduated from Oakland High School in 1960. He has led a big band off and on since his days at College of the Pacific over 35 years ago. A few of his credits include being first trumpet, soloist and road manager of the Stan Kenton Orchestra, as well as being co-leader while Mr. Kenton was recovering from surgery; leading the Dukes of Dixieland in New Orleans; producing and/or music directing for over 25 jazz festivals; and performing workshops for more than 1000 high schools, colleges and universities all over the world. He is currently a National Artist for The Getzen Musical Instrument Company.
Friends of Big Band Jazz is the support group for MVJO and MVBB. This nonprofit corporation has sent students to summer jazz camps on scholarships, donated funds to the Oakland Youth Orchestra, and raised money for Oakland Parks and Recreation and supports the Al Jazzbeaux Collins Memorial Scholarship Fund with proceeds from its CDs, Alternate Route, BIGBANDJAZZ.NET, LIVE...On The Road and latest release Next Stop, LIVE On The Road.
The goals of Friends of Big Band Jazz, the MVJO, and MVBB are to perform meaningful music, talk about the importance of the jazz heritage in America, bring jazz music to young people, and to offer our audiences a relaxed, entertaining atmosphere. The MVJO rehearses and performs a jazz concert series at The Longfellow School For Performing Arts in Berkeley, California, as well as performing at the Woodminster Amphitheater and the Calvin Simmons Theater, also in Oakland. The MVJO has performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Filoli Mansion Concert Series, Yoshi's and Kimball's, plus many other venues in Northern California. The Mike Vax Big Band performs an annual spring or summer tour of several states to support the goals of FBBJ.