"Devil’s music’ roars into Breck
BRECKENRIDGE – When jazz roared through America in the 1920s, it was considered the devil’s music, breaking musical and social rules and “corrupting” young people in honky-tonk clubs. By the end of the decade, at least 60 communities nationwide had outlawed jazz in public dance halls.
Despite reformers’ efforts, jazz dominated the music industry with such greats as Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver and Kid Ory.
Inspired by jazz legends, the Denver-based Queen City Jazz Band has been recreating traditional New Orleans-style jazz, blues and gospel for more than 40 years. The seven-piece band performs Dixieland tunes, such as “Fidgety Feet,” “Basin Street Blues,” and “New Orleans Stomp,” using both improvisation and straight arrangements.
“We feed off of each other, and we improv a lot,” said bandleader and tuba player Bill Clark. “(Other times) we turn ourselves into a musical museum and play (songs) exactly the way they were played in the 1920s. It’s fresh. Instead of hearing it on an old, scratchy record, you hear it from live musicians who have a real affection for the music and real spirit. What we’re doing is representing a time period in jazz … in it’s simplest, most basic form. It’s very digestible and understandable to people of all ages.”
Clark, who teaches music at the University of Colorado at Denver, said even people who hate jazz will like the Queen City Jazz Band.
“A lot of it’s vocal, and it’s just simple and easy to listen to,” he said. “It’s also very happy music. Most people could hear our music and like it right away. It’s happy, fun music.”
Wende Harston, voted Denver’s finest blues singer last year in Westword magazine, belts out the blues with a hearty, deep, lustrous voice in the style of Bessie Smith. Band members Clark, John Bartmann on coronet, Jim Tracy on banjo, Marl Shanahan on piano, Mark Janicki on trombone and Lance Acker on clarinet and sax back up Harston’s rich vocals.
The band has recorded more than 20 albums and has 10-12 CDs available by the current band members, who have been with Queen City for at least 15 years.
“We enjoy what we’re doing, and it shows,” Clark said.
The decadent sounds of the ’20s roar into the Riverwalk Center at 7:30 tonight. Tickets are $19 and may be purchased at the Riverwalk Center box office or by calling (970) 547-3100.
Queen City Jazz Band
– When: 7:30 p.m. today
– Where: Riverwalk Center, Breckenridge
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