Economic downturns and changing styles have always affected the big band business. Whether it’s a Jazz Orchestra, a Big Band, a Large Ensemble, or simply And Friends, at the end of the night—someone must write all those checks to all those musicians.
The Live Jazz KC Big Band seems to be one and ‘0’ for the season; the band’s maiden voyage was a critical success, Musical Director, Rob Scheps was personable, animated and he not only conduced the band, but he also wrote or arranged 5 of the 12 tunes performed by the ensemble, on October 20th at the newly renovated Warwick Theater—Westport Road and Main Street.
Live Jazz KC Executive Director and saxophonist, Herschel McWilliams played musical chairs with Scheps in the orchestra, by handling the second tenor position when Scheps vacated it to get in front of the band while conducting. McWilliams also offered a tune, the beautiful A Walk Through the Sleeping Trees, arranged by saxophonist Brandon Wilkins.
There were 13 recognized patrons listed in the night’s program sponsoring this incredible evening of music, plus sponsorships from Kansas City Jazz Alive, Kansas City Jazz Alliance and KC Jazz Ambassadors. This helped to keep the ticket price low and fill the hall with a very appreciative group of serious jazz fans.
The entire group put on an exceptional performance. The sets were well paced and engaging, and every member was recognized for their unique contribution to the evening. Having a different vocalist in each set also added to the variety. Kathleen Holman, always exceptional, offered 2 standard numbers arranged by members of the band.
Angela Hagenbach, a recording artist with several celebrated recordings to her credit, has been acting and focusing on telling her family’s story in Weston, MO over the past few years.
After such a long break from jazz performance, just seeing her enter the stage was exhilarating. Her original performance of Mark Schroer’s lyrics to Bittersweet, a song written by her, and guitarist Jake Blanton featured on Angela’s recording Poetry of Love. Glenn North’s spoken word for My Song, Bobby Watson’s composition from his album Check Cashing Day set a very positive tone as the evening roared to an exciting conclusion.
Highlights included a Scheps composition, arranged by tenor saxophonist Brad Gregory. New Homes was the final song of the first set. Angela Hagenbach’s rendition of My Song was the other. The audience danced in their seats to this funky-groove-tune just right for a swingin’ twentieth century big band from Kansas City.