by ROB CHANEY
Running the same week as the Buddy DeFranco Jazz Festival at the University of Montana, Jazzoula founder Bruce Micklus said the two venues complement and multiply the musical offerings. Jazzoula takes place April 22-25, while the Buddy DeFranco Festival closes the week April 26-27.
“We have so many fantastic jazz musicians that reside in western Montana and the Missoula valley,” Micklus said. “Many of them played with or graduated from the programs at the university. It’s a fantastic program, but once you graduate, its ‘na-na/ hey-hey/ kiss them goodbye.’ There’s no real outreach program for them to come back. We just thought, with as many great musicians as we’ve got, lets give them an opportunity to play again.”
Jazzoula traditionally honors a Missoula jazz institution each spring, and this year’s award goes to the Ed Norton Big Band. Founding members Jodi Marshall, Tom Wogsland and Scott Ray will be on hand to reminisce and perform, along with the combo’s current personnel.
“The band goes back about 25 years,” said guitarist David Horgan, who’s only been a member for about 20. “Over the years, practically everybody who plays jazz in Missoula has at least sat in with the band, or played a gig, or subbed in, or been part of a section for a period of time.”
Named for Art Carney’s upstairs neighbor character in “The Honeymooners,” The Ed Norton Big Band maintains the style and repertoire of the 1930s and ‘40s jazz ensembles. Horgan said Wogsland and Ray avoided picking a name from current membership, the way Count Bassie or Woody Herman did.
“They weren’t in that school of thought,” Horgan said. “They were looking for a name who sounded like a guy who ran a big band. It suits this leaderless concept we have. Ed Norton functions almost as a true democracy – there’s no leader.”
There is, however, a book of classic jazz pieces every member must master. The band keeps the traditional 17-piece format of five saxophones, four trombones, four trumpets, drums, bass, piano and guitar that dominated the jazz scene before and after World War II.
On the newer end of the spectrum, Yemanja’s Kitchen brings its Brazilian-influenced music to Jazzoula for the first time. A “Kitchen” in Brazil is the street term for a music club or school, featuring thrilling rhythm sections and a wide array of popular and regional song styles. Yemanja’s Kitchen taps into the drum and percussion talents of Robert Ledbetter and UM Brazilian exchange students to drive compositions by Antonio Jobim, Sergio Mendez and other South American hit-makers.
Local stalwarts Chuck Florence, Bob Packwood, Pete Hand and James Wallace will be heading combos, along with the Eden Atwood Trio, Salsa Loca, the Basement Boys, and the UM Jazz combo. Headliners from the Buddy DeFranco Festival will sit in with several of the groups over the four-night sets.
The shows come complete with dinner options cooked on site, a full bar and table seating as well as room for dancing in the St. Anthony Church Parish Hall. Each evening features a different lineup of performers.
Tickets cost $10 for general admission, $8 for students or senior citizens for each evening performance. An all-show pass will also be available.
Rob Chaney is a Missoulian reporter. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.