Plainsong: A re-creation of the fabled Hall Brothers Jazz Band of Minnesota will be among the highlights of this year's Great River Jazz Festival, scheduled for August 7-10 at La Crosse, Wisc. According to former HBJB bassist Bill Evans of Eagan, Minn., he was contacted by Norm Thingvold of the Great River Festival about engaging Evans' current New Orleans Jazz Band for the 2008 festival. (Evans is the leader/trombonist of the band.) Said Evans, "When I learned our regular bassist, Steve Pikal, couldn't make it, I decided to try to re-create the old Hall Brothers band, so I got HBJB founding member Russ Hall to play trombone, I will play bass, Butch Thompson will be on clarinet, Charlie DeVore on cornet and Mike Polad on piano, replacing original founding member Stan Hall. We're tying this in with the recognition the original HBJB has received as part of Minnesota's sesquicentennial celebration."
Thingvold apparently has assumed many of the duties of longtime Great River Fest mainstay Wayne Arihood who recently moved from La Crosse to Arizona. For schedule, tickets, other info on the Great River Fest '08, contact Thingvold at (608) 784-2369 or (608) 785-0220. More on HBJB, old and new, in future issues.
In Toledo, Ohio, Ragtime Rick Grafing and The Chefs of Dixieland cook up a storm each Thursday night at Sodbusters Saloon, www.chefsofdixieland.com. Grafing and Bob Martz co-host a program each Saturday on WCWA/1230 AM, www.wcwa.com.
It's one of the best kept secrets in jazz: April is Jazz Appreciation Month. Helping to celebrate it in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area will be the Twin Cities Jazz Society's concert, "Beyond Category," the songs of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. It's part of the TCJS's "Jazz from J to Z" series, April 12. Details are available from www.bloomingtonartcenter.com or from www.tcjs.org.
Bunny and Bix: Mark your calendar for May 16-18, the annual Bunny Berigan Jazz Jubilee, Fox Lake, Wisc. Event coordinator Julie Flemming promises, "You'll have the time of your life as you help celebrate Bunny's 100th birthday anniversary." Talent includes the Bunny Berigan Memorial Band with Rev. Al Townsend and Don Chesebro; the Schulz-Hirsch All-Stars; the Vagabond Reeds; Larry Busch's Big Band and the Beaver Dam, Wisc. High School Band. There will also be a Sunday morning memorial service at Berigan's gravesite at St. Mary's Cemetery on Breezy Point Road, south of Fox Lake. Sponsors include the Fox Lake Chamber of Commerce, Mullin's Drive-Inn, the Hayes Resort and the Bunny Berigan Jazz Jubilee Committee. Info from www.bunnyberiganjazzjubilee.com, email@example.com, (920) 928-6094 or from the Bunny Berigan Jazz Jubilee, P.O. Box 400, Fox Lake, WI 53933.
It's time to get ready for Bix, too: In the Roaring '20s, Davenport, Iowa, produced a legendary jazz cornetist, pianist and composer whose worldwide fame continues to grow. His name was Leon "Bix" Beiderbecke, and his music continues to astound listeners due to the clarity of his tone, his musical imagination, and his complex piano compositions. Bix played with the great bands of the era -- the Wolverines, Jean Goldkette, and Paul Whiteman.
Since 1972, the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival has been held annually to honor this unassuming young genius whose career was cut short by his death in 1931 at the age of 28. The festival has been named Iowa's No. 1 tourist attraction by the Iowa Department of Tourism. This year's event will take place July 24-27, 2008.