Established in 1996 as the Black Eyed Peas Brass Band, the current Hoppin' John Orchestra has seen our name, our music and our musicians evolve and change in many ways over the years. For the uninitiated, Hoppin' John is a tasty, tasty dish, one of whose main ingredients is black-eyed peas. One look at a current radio chart and one can see why the change occurred. Still and all, we find it a fitting moniker for our efforts. Five of the original eight members remain: Matt, Tony, Mike, Lou, and Darren.
Our very first singer, Wayne Harvey now performs in the Media area as a solo singer songwriter and with area bands. Wayne performed with us in 96' and '97. Our second singer Laura Woods still performs with us occasionally and has become the mother of two lads! Laura was with us from '97 through '02 and has recorded with us on several occasions. Our very accomplished and much missed Tubist, Shane Petit, now plays Tuba and repairs musical instruments for the U.S. Army. He may still sit in once in a while. Over the years as our musician's careers have taken off, we have been more and sometimes less active performing and have now weathered two significant hiatii. We are all very excited to be playing out once again and bringing our special brand of New Orleans flavored Jazz, R and B and original composition.
As the creative director and main arranger/composer, there are a few things I try to keep in mind when selecting repertoire and composing new materiel for the group. An over all 'sound' which includes that delicious organic wind instrument timbre is certainly our aural calling card. Also, more complex and sophisticated Jazz harmonies tend to predominate. Each wind player brings a unique and special musical personality to the gumbo of sound. With this in mind, I do try to emulate one of my idols and perhaps the 'Zeus' in the pantheon of American Musical Geniuses, Duke Ellington. Among his many, many brilliant innovations, writing for the individual players in his bands was a hallmark. I try to do the same. Certainly the musicians can play anything put in front of them but there are particular musical identities which have emerged over the years and I try to keep these in mind and positively exploit them whenever possible. Additionally, the discovery in 1996 of our drummer Darren has been an incredible boon to our sound. It is not as if the music is written presuming complete individual control of limbs but since this is Darren's superhero power, we use it! (but only for good). The fluid nature of the rhythm section's interaction in general is one of the great strengths and joys of this ensemble. There is much Jazz sensibility in our group as nearly all of us come from that school of thought and sound. There are plenty of opportunities for improvisation as well as through composed areas and pieces.