You spin around this world a couple of times and think you know what is going on out there and all of a sudden you realize you don’t have a clue. This story starts with an invitation to attend a concert at the Jazz Kitchen on North College Avenue in Indianapolis, which in turn, exposed me to the sweet sounds of the Jim Edison 17 piece big band playing a memorial for Jim Edison who passed back in September 2012.
But, first I want to take you back a couple months to a conversation I had with my son, Scott, and my daughter-in-law, Carla, about the future of my grandson, Connor.
Grandson – Connor Vaughn
What is he going to do with his life after he graduates from high school? I’m sure anyone with kids, or grandkids graduating from high school, more than likely has had this same conversation over the kitchen table. Gathered around the island in the kitchen, I was seated on a tall chair on one side of the counter and Carla and Scott were standing on the other. Carla was pacing back and forth talking a mile a minute trying to get her mind around the idea that her son, still a baby in her mind, was graduating from high school and ready for that next step in life, perhaps… college. Carla went to the cupboard and like clockwork popped opened a bottle of Clos du Dois, Cabernet Sauvignon, one of Scott’s very favorite wines. I mean, they only open this wine when there is something special happening. I had a funny feeling I was going to be here awhile.
Grandson – Connor Vaughn
As I settled in on the bar chair and sipped a little of this mighty good red wine from my stemmed glass, I listened to the hesitations and hick-ups in each of their voices about Connor’s future. I drifted back in my mind to the days when I was graduating from high school. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do after high school either. The simple answer was, “You go to college that’s what you do, right?” Well, that‘s what some people do who have focus. That’s what people do who know where they're heading in life. I wasn’t sure where I was headed, or where I was going, or what I was going to do next. I was told years later that my dad’s sister, Agnes, a grand lady that lived in Flint, Michigan, talked with my mom and dad over the phone about my future noting that I had a knack for show business. I didn’t see it back then, but during my high school years I was passionate and focused on trombone, music, drama, radio, performing and, of course, beautiful women.
So, for me it was settled. Send Steve to an acting school somewhere in the country. I ended up in New York City at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
As I sat and listened to the conversation about Connor they finally asked me what I thought they should do. Oh dear, was I going to recreate the same advice that Agnes gave my parents 50 years ago about me… was I the Agnes in this conversation? “What is Connor passionate about?”, I asked. They responded, "music".
Grandson – Connor Vaughn
Connor is a good trumpet player...not a great trumpet player, but pretty good for his age and experience. He has stage presence and demonstrates emotion when he plays. I have been to enough of his music presentations during high school over the years that I agreed he does seem to have that something that is necessary for a good start in music. If... that is HIS passion. I was informed during the conversation that Connor has been taking private trumpet lessons from a trumpet pro, Mike White, for a couple of years. So, to me it seemed very simple . His path is in front of him… what’s the problem?
Grandson – Connor Vaughn
I was then informed there are three schools on the list as possibilities, Indiana University, University of Indianapolis and Butler University. Well, then, all we have to do was decide which school. “Which one is the cheapest?” There is no such thing as the cheapest. The University of Indianapolis is the least expensive, then Indiana University, Bloomington, Jacobs School of Music and the most expensive Butler University. I had to ask, “Which school is the ‘best’ school?” The question was answered by another question, “By what measure?”
Grandson – Connor Vaughn
The question then came back to Connor. What does he want to be or what does he want to do with a music education. Does Connor want to be a teacher in a public school, perform in a symphony or travel and be on the road or stage...what?
“Connor doesn’t know yet.” Carla said. “Well, what does his private music teacher, Mike White, think what is he saying?” Carla said his private teacher, Mike White, who has quite a resume himself, has his ideas but seems to favor Jordon School of Music at Indiana University, Bloomington.
Apparently, Mike is very well connected to alot of the schools and universities, as well as, the local market. This Mike White guy has his own jazz/dance band named Cool Chilies Band and ‘One Hundred and One Degrees in the Shade’ band. It seems Mike feels Conner has talent and he will be better off in a university that will challenge and push him. After talking about what “challenging him” meant we decided the choice was between Butler University, Indianapolis or the Jordan School of Music at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.
One more wrinkle in this equation is that Connor doesn’t want to live on campus. He wants to stay at home while attending college.
“Connor doesn’t want to live on a campus?” I asked.
Scott said, “Yep, he wants to live at home!”
All of the schools are offering some kind of incentive for Connor to attend. So, it comes down to money. This is when I looked over at Scott, who was leaning against the kitchen cabinets looking down at the floor, with no expression. “Well, it looks like Butler then. He can stay at home and attend Butler. Butler will push him to be the best he can be I assume. What’s the problem?”
It’s money. Even with the financial help we will get from Butler the tab at the end of four years will still be in the neighborhood of $80,000 dollars. The number 80,000 was a shock to me. Now, I realized this may be my last glass of good wine here at the Scott and Carla home for a long, long time.
Fast forwarding here… Connor and company decided on Butler and he is now enrolled at Butler University in the music program and is attending classes. Connor is now being exposed to the business of becoming a first rate musician. He is bumping up against some very big name artists and is becoming aware that, as a musician, one needs contacts as much as schooling and the discipline to practice his trumpet 6-8 hours a day. Let me repeat what I know at this point. To make a living... a good living as a musician playing a trumpet one must practice 6-8 hours a day, possess a degree, and then know all the players in the industry. The old, “It’s not what you know but who you know.” certainly applies here, but one must also be a great musician.
Let’s go back to the beginning of this story: Scott called and asked what I was doing Sunday night. “Nothing, I guess, why... what’s up?” Scott explained that Connor wanted to go to the Jazz Kitchen to hear a band play. “What band? You mean like rock-n-roll type band or like a band that plays big band music, what kind of band?” Scott wasn’t really sure,” Jazz I think.”
I searched the free (that's a good thing) event online while talking to Scott. The Jim Edison Orchestra is coming together again for a fundraiser. Coming together again? Are they disbanded? Sundays bash is dedicated to the memory of the late bandleader and supports the musicians' unions Distressed Members Fund. Jim Edison, the leader, who’s name I didn’t know, died September 22, 2012, and founded his orchestra in 1962. In addition to leading it for many years, he was lead trumpeter for Starlight Musicals for 23 years and a member of the faculty of the University of Indianapolis in the 1970s and '80s.
Sunday's fundraiser at the Jazz Kitchen requested donations from folks attending the concert. The Jim Edison Orchestra will perform two sets: one at 6 p.m. and the other at 7:30 p.m.
While I love big band music I’m not knowledgeable about the jazz scene. I agreed to go to the Jazz Kitchen with Scott and Connor, but I wasn’t sure I would enjoy a full night of ‘pure jazz.’
I continued reading online that The Jazz Kitchen is one of the prominent jazz clubs and restaurant in Indianapolis. The club showcases local, regional and national jazz acts. It was voted one of the top 100 jazz clubs in the world in 2009 by Down Beat magazine. The Jazz Kitchen is owned by David Allee, son of jazz musician and composer, Steve Allee.
David Allee, who must be close to 40, has owned local businesses since age 21. First, David owned The Bike Shop, a bike repair and sales outlet, at 52nd Street and College Avenue. In April 2004 at age 26 he then opened the Jazz Kitchen with his business partner at that time, Michael Slattery. The Jazz Kitchen building is located at 5377 N. College Ave. and has been the home of live music since the late '70s. First, as a reggae club (Kilimanjaro), then a flexible venue that leaned towards punk (Crazy Al's) and finally as a jazz club. David initially named that jazz venue, The Place To Start, which he later changed to The Jazz Kitchen.
David Allee is the son of jazz pianist, Steve Allee. I know the name Steve Allee. David Allee played trumpet in the Broad Ripple High School jazz band and still pulls out his ax (that’s a hip way of saying trumpet) occasionally, filling out the horn section in groups like the funk/jazz band Seven Pleasures.
A YOUNGER DAVID AND STEVE ALLEE
David is partial to trumpeters when he thinks back to memorable shows at the Jazz Kitchen...Maynard Ferguson, Terence Blanchard and Arturo Sandoval, to name a few. He also talks about a May 2002 visit from singer Harry Connick Jr.'s quartet and a 1995 concert by Indianapolis-born trombonist, J.J. Johnson, that helped him to viscerally connect with Indianapolis jazz history.
Looking way back when Indianapolis was growing, College Avenue had street cars heading north on College Avenue toward Broad Ripple with clusters of commercial buildings springing up every four or five blocks. One such shopping hub was located at the intersection of College Avenue and 54th Street. The one-story structure on the southeast corner has had many incarnations and still lives in the neighborhood known as SoBro (South Broad Ripple).
This commercial block, where the Jazz Kitchen operates today, was developed in, or about, 1928 and designed by the architectural firm of Pierre and Wright (Edward D. Pierre and George C. Wright). The eight-section brick building housed Kerr’s Pharmacy, Kroger Grocery, Bruce’s Food Shoppe and Bakery and Erber Hardware soon after completion. Seen to the right is College Court Apartments.
By 1945 the storefronts on the southeast corner housed Kroger Grocery, Haag Drug Company, Roy T. Scotten Restaurant, Parker’s Department Store, Center Cleaners and College Avenue Repair Shop.
In the 1970's and 80's several storefronts were rented by businesses seeking a younger demographic. On the corner was Crazy Al’s, a pizza restaurant/bar known for alternative, punk, and new wave music. Also, in this strip was The Guitar Shop and Modern Times, a vintage clothing store owned by Julie Mahern (now Julie Cicada Crow).
Looking back, David Allee whimsically recalls the rigors of the Jazz Club’s opening day. “I do remember going down to buy bar stools and chairs at 3 o’clock the day we were opening and we just got that in prior to opening. I’m very happy about the way we did it. We obviously went in and did it on a shoestring budget to begin with. The thing I like most about it was it gave myself, the city and everybody a chance to warm up to the idea of having a full-time jazz club. I don’t think most people understand the difficulty. It’s not only a restaurant and a nightclub, but it’s the combination of the two. Honestly, time was needed to foster that.” He further states, "The talent in this city is immense and vast, second-to-none in the world. New York probably has 500 tenor players who will blow your mind away. Here we have a handful. It's just a scale thing.”
Armed with a little history of the Jazz Kitchen, I arrived at the intersection of 54th and College Ave., parked the Caddy on the street and walked to the entrance of the Jazz Kitchen. I took a photograph of the Jazz Kitchen from across the street. Notice Scott panning for the camera on the left of the photograph. I found Scott and Connor’s girlfriend, Laura, talking to Mike White just outside the door. Remember Mike White, Connors trumpet teacher?
LAURA GREEN, SCOTT DUNCAN, MIKE WHITE
Connor wanted to be there early to get a good seat. The very large door man with no sense of humor checked Laura’s and Connor's ID’s and looked at me as if to say, “I don’t think so.”, but did allow us in. The place was very dark with candles on each table. The tables were draped with white table cloths and on one end of the room was a bandstand/stage. On the opposite end was a small bar. Additionally, tables for 4 people were about 6 deep and 4-5 tables wide in the center of the room. On my left was a riser with two levels of additional seating. Connor and Laura picked the table they wanted and we all pulled out our chairs and sat down.
A young, attractive, high school aged, gal handed us our menus and welcomed us to the Jazz Kitchen. She asked what we would like to drink. I decided to have a scotch. I asked the young sweet thing what brands were available and she froze. I don’t think she even knew the name scotch, but she was young and why give her a hard time for not knowing hard liquor brands at her age? I looked at the menu quickly and found one of my favorite's, Johnnie Walker Red and Black. I then scanned the prices for the food on the menu. Wow, this place is not your cheap hamburger and fries joint. They are real proud of their dinner items, fancy meals and fancy prices. I made an executive decision very quickly. I was going to drink during the show.
As I looked around the room I noticed wires draped everywhere over the stage. Plus, lots of professional stage type lighting hanging in front of, and over, the bandstand. The bands' white cardboard music stands were in place with a Jim Edison logo in red on the front and it looked like it was going to be a very full stage of musicians.
The musicians took their places on stage and I counted 17 members. One piano, drums, two guitars, four trumpets, three trombones, five saxophones and the band leader, Mike White, holding his trumpet. They played a couple numbers, big band type numbers like Tuxedo Junction and Pennsylvania 6-5000. Wow, these guys are good. I mean, these guys are really good!
Mike White functioned as the band leader of the Jim Edison Orchestra, as well as, the Master of Ceremonies and we heard stories about Jim Edison's life. What a great arranger, teacher, and trumpet player he was.
JUNE EDISON AND MIKE WHITE
Mr. Edison started playing piano and trumpet as a high school student and went on to perform on radio, stage and television with famous artists like Frank Sinatra, Della Reese, Johnny Mathis, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and the Harry James Band. He led bands for the Starlight Musicals Theater here in Indianapolis, the Murat Theater, Holiday on Ice, Ice Capades, the Indiana State Fair, Ringling Brothers Circus and founded the Jim Edison Orchestra. Jim holds a Music Education degree from Butler University and Jordan Conservatory of Music and is a former protégé of Bob Phillips.
A veteran of the U.S. Army and a graduate of Butler University, Jim Edison founded the Jim Edison Orchestra in 1962. He performed with entertainers in Las Vegas and recorded with Christian performers, Sandi Patti and the Gaither Family. For 23 years, he was the lead trumpeter and music contractor on the Jim Gerrard show as a member of the house band.
Jim was also lead trumpet with Henry Mancini, Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis' Touring Orchestras. Additionally, he held contracts as lead trumpet for Broadway Shows 1966-1989. Upon returning to Indianapolis Jim taught trumpet at the University of Indianapolis and directed the University’s jazz band in the 1970s and 1980s.
JIM AND JUNE EDISON
Jim, with his wife, June, at his side had just completed restoration of his beautiful 1941 Lincoln Continental. He rescued this car from a pig sty back in 1994. It was totally disassembled with the parts in coffee cans, cardboard boxes, pickle jars, and grocery sacks with nothing numbered or identified.
The engine was totally apart with the engine block in pig slop, the crankshaft lying in the mud and the pistons and rods thrown helter-skelter all around. After many attempts to bring it back to the dignified life it truly deserved, restoration was completed just in time to show it at the 2012 Eastern National in Georgia this past June. It garnered 995 points out of 1000 and won a Dearborn (the highest) Award.
Not only that, but it was chosen by Ken Bounds, president of the Early Ford V-8 Club of America, as the recipient of his President's Choice Award!
Jim Edison, 79, passed away September 22, 2012. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, June (Smith) Edison; three sons, Greg (Krista), Geoff, and Mark (Jayne); seven grandchildren and brother, Jack (Terry) Edison.
Tonight’s performance is a memorial and fundraiser. Every member of the orchestra is giving their time to honor the late bandleader and to support the musicians' unions Distressed Members Fund. Local 3, American Federation of Musicians, is the bargaining instrument for the formerly locked out musicians of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The proceeds from this event are intended for the general fund according to Secretary-Treasurer, Martin Hodapp.
The evening was fabulous. It was all big band music and, man, what a sound these 17 guys make together! At intermission Connor was having a heart attack: A man and his wife walked in during the performance and seated themselves at a table across from us. I asked Connor what he was so excited about.
“Do you know who that is, don’t you know him?"
I said, “NO, who is he?”
"That’s Dominic Spera!" Connor tried his best to tell me why I should be so impressed with this guy. I looked over at him and he seemed a nice enough kind of guy. He was sitting with his wife, I assumed. So, I decided to walk to his table.
“Excuse me folks, I don’t mean to intrude, but my grandson over here is a first year music student (trumpet) at Butler, and he just about had a cat when he noticed you. No disrespect intended, but according to my grandson you are somebody very special. I am very sorry I don’t know your name, mine is Steve Duncan.“
During my introduction he looked up at me without expression and when I finished I got an ear full from his wife. She read off a list of people that Dominic has performed with, including Frank Sinatra. His wife is very proud of her man.
Dominic was very gracious to me and we talked about his career. I asked him if he had any advice for this grandfather to encourage his grandson. He smiled and said, “He has got to practice 6-8 hours a day to be anything in this industry.” Dominic finally said, “Send him over, I’ll talk with him for a second.”
Connor was right. This guy has done it all. Dominic has worked as a composer-arranger and completed many performances as a jazz artist. Mr. Spera performed professionally in New York City doing work in TV and recording studios, which included Firestone T.V. Show, Fred Waring T.V. Show, City Center Ballet Orchestra, Radio City Symphony and Roxy Theater Orchestra. He also played lead trumpet in several Broadway Shows, including "How To Succeed In Business, "Stop The World I Want To Get Off", "The Roar Of The Grease Paint", "The Smell Of The Crowd" and "On A Clear Day You Can See Forever".
Dom (I feel like we are super tight now) has also played in the bands of Lionel Hampton, Andy Kirk, Charlie Barnet, Billy Butterfield, Tito Puente, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Les & Larry Elgart. From 1966-1974 Mr. Spera played first trumpet for Burt Bacharach, Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Henry Mancini and a host of other entertainment luminaries. Dominic has performed with Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas, Natalie Cole on her national tour and with Steve Lawrence & Edie Gorme. He has also performed with several symphony orchestras including those in Boston, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. The composer of over 100 jazz ensemble compositions and two Disney overtures, Mr. Spera is Professor Emeritus of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music where he teaches jazz arranging & composition, jazz pedagogy, jazz ensemble and jazz history for the last 20 years.
I also discovered that Connor’s trumpet teacher and the conductor for tonight's performance, Mike White, has a very handsome resume himself. His highlights include performances on Broadway (A Chorus Line), B. J. Thomas, Blair & Company and the Bob Davis Orchestra. Additional credits include performances with Bob Hope, Connie Haynes, Cool City Swing Band, Dionne Warwick, Floyd Kramer, Glenn Miller Orchestra, Helen Forrest, Henry Cuesta (clarinet great from Lawrence Welk), Henry Lee Summer, Hollywood Hills Orchestra, Jackson Street Orchestra, Jim Edison Orchestra, Johnny Desmond, Manhattan Transfer, Mel Torme, Nashville Jazz Machine, Opryland USA, Pat Boone, Red Skelton, Ringling Bros & Barnum, Bailey Circus, Robert Goulet, Russ Morgan Orchestra, Sandi Patty, Stratford Chamber Brass Quintet (leader), Susan Lucci, Tastes Like Chicken Band, The 5th Dimension, The Four Tops, The Ink Spots, The O'Jays, The Pied Pipers, The Temptations, the Tommy Mullinix Orchestra and Martha Reeves & the Vandelas.
What a special night. I entered into a world that I didn’t even know existed. I wrote to Mike White after the evening and asked him to tell me the names of the band members. Mike was quick to respond to my e-mail and said, “Thanks for coming. We raised over $2,400.00 at this small event for the distressed member’s fund!”
I want to recognize the amazing talent we have living here in Indianapolis and let you know that sitting on that bandstand are some of the most professional musicians in the world.
Starting with the saxophones, Left to right....
Harry Miedema – Saxophone. Harry has been at the University of Indianapolis since 1985. He currently teaches saxophone and all jazz courses. Prior to his full time position at U-Indy, he was saxophonist and/or Music Director for the O'Jays and Gerald Levert for 23 years. He can be heard on the Four Tops Christmas Album with Aretha Franklin, the O'Jays album Emotionally Yours (Gold), and Father & Son by Gerald and Eddie Levert (Platinum). Before that, he toured with Motown acts. Harry is also the leader of the Bossa Rio Sextet and first call saxophonist for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Miedema's radio show, “How Jazz Works”, can be heard on WICR, 88.7 FM, Saturday evenings at 9:00pm. His CD, I'll Never Stop Loving You, was released in 2001. He is a Selmer clinician.
Tom Meyer – Saxophone. Tom has taught private lessons on flute, saxophone and clarinet at Marian University since 2009. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Jazz Studies from Indiana University and has been a busy freelance musician and private teacher in Indianapolis for over forty years. His playing experience includes tours with Henry Mancini, Andy Williams, Natalie Cole, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, Pia Zadora, the Army Field Band Studio Band and concerts with Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Julie Andrews, Sammy Davis, Tony Bennett, Michael Feinstein, Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton, Slide Hampton, Ray Charles, Peggy Lee, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Aretha Franklin, Liza Minnelli, Bernadette Peters, Carol Channing, Bob Hope, Yul Brynner, Michel Legrand, Doc Severinsen, Bobby Shew, Woody Herman and others. Tom plays regularly in the Indianapolis Symphony Pops concerts, Ft. Wayne Philharmonic, Steve Allee Big Band, Buselli Walarab Jazz Orchestra and the Cool City Swing Band. He has also played with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra and the Indianapolis Jazz Orchestra. Complimenting the aforementioned performances are dozens of Broadway shows, membership in several legendary Indiana Big Bands led by Al Cobine, Jim Edison and John Von Ohlen. He has recorded with Buselli Walarab, Al Cobine, Bob & Tom, Hal Leonard and others. Mr. Meyer has also taught at DePauw University and the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops.
Jim Farrelly – Saxophone. Jim is the leader of the band True to Form, which is a top local contemporary jazz band. An Indiana University Music School graduate, Jim has played lead alto sax in Stan Kenton’s last orchestra in 1978. His first contemporary jazz group, Full Circle, became a popular six-piece band that was later renamed True to Form. Today, Farrelly is a busy musician doing studio work, playing locally and touring in Broadway shows. “I play lead alto in the Steve Allee Big Band and sub on the Buselli Wallarab Jazz Orchestra”, he says. “I have played with the Flip Miller Wedding Band for 17 years.” On top of that, Jim teaches saxophone one day a week at Broad Ripple High School in their magnet program.
John Nelson – Saxophone. John was educated at North Texas State University (1976-1980) majoring in jazz education. He also attended the Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis (1997-2000) and received his Doctor of Jurisprudence degree in May, 2000. John has performed with Stars of Lawrence Welk, Perry Como, Jack Jones, Bob Newhart, Frankie Carle, Gene Krupa Orchestra, Clem DeRosa and Tommy Mullinix. He has also recorded with Randy Carmichael, Hoagy's son. Performances include main concert & theater venues across the county, including Roy Thomson Hall - Toronto/ Meyerhoff Symphony Hall - Baltimore, Circle Theater - Indianapolis/Ruth Eckerdt Hall - Clearwater, Florida /Academy of Music - Philadelphia, Rainbow Room - New York City. Performance History: Henry Cuesta, Gib Gentry Big Band, Guy Lombardo Orchestra, Russ Morgan Orchestra, The Four Tops, The Temptations , Tommy & Jimmy Dorsey Orchestras.
Jay Young – Saxophone. At home in a broad range of styles, Jay is an active performer playing throughout the United States and the world. He has played saxophones/woodwinds in the "Bob & Tom Band" (from the nationally syndicated radio show in Indianapolis) since 1989 and has toured/performed with some of the most recognizable names in the music business including: Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Johnny Mathis, The Manhattan Transfer, Three Dog Night, Sha Na Na, Lou Rawls, Mary Wilson, Martha Reeves and the Vadellas, The Spinners, Marie Osmond, Sandi Patti, Frankie Valli, Bobby Vinton, Duke Tumatoe, The Glenn Miller Orchestra, The Harry James Orchestra, The Buselli Wallarab Jazz Orchestra, The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians, Steve Allee, various "Broadway" musicals, numerous recordings and radio/television commercials…..the list goes on and on. Mr. Young is an Artist/Clinician for Selmer musical instruments.
(L-R) PETE BROCKMAN – DAVE PAVOLKA – DAVE SHANK – TROMBONES
Pete Brockman – Trombone. Pete is a member of the Lafayette Symphony Orchestra, Ohio bandleader, Vaughn Wiester, 5 Bones and Blooming Jazz Fest.
(L-R) PETE BROCKMAN – DAVE PAVOLKA – DAVE SHANK – TROMBONES
Dave Pavolka – Trombone. Dave has worked with the Bloomington Jazz Fest and Notre Dame Collegiate Jazz Festivals.
Dave Shank – Trombone. Dave has worked with Indy Express Band, Jay Leno, Rod Stewart, Natalie Cole, Dionne Warwick, Al Jarreau, Barry Manilow, Cool Chilies Band (since 2001), Elvis Presley, Henry Mancini, Natalie Cole, Tony Bennett and Woody Herman.
Larry McWilliams – Trumpet. Larry is a Professor of Music Performance. Larry joined faculty at the Ball State University School of Music in 1970 as a trumpet instructor. Prior to joining the School of Music, McWilliams had extensive performing experience with name bands and well-known Broadway shows such as the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Glenn Miller Orchestra, and the shows Hello Dolly and Cabaret. Other performing experiences include freelance work in New York and Las Vegas. He has toured with many major stars, including Johnny Mathis, Henry Mancini, Pia Zadora, Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme, Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra Jr., the Spinners, the Temptations, Red Skelton and others.
Jeff Conrad – Trumpet. Jeff plays with the Buselli Wallarab Jazz Orchestra, Mark Buselli, Daniel Young, Sarah Schieber, Bob & Tom- Camel Toe, and Richard Bowden.
Mark Buselli – Trumpet. Mark is also a composer, arranger and educator. He co-leads with trombonist/composer Brent Wallarab, of the Indianapolis-based Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra, one of today’s premiere regional big bands. He’s also leader of, and plays trumpet with, the Midcoast Swing Orchestra, the BWJO Sextet, and the Mark Buselli Quartet and Quintet. Mark is also Director of Jazz Studies at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where he leads the school’s two big bands. He graduated from the Berklee School of Music in Boston and received his MM in Jazz Studies from Indiana University.
Steve Robinett – Trumpet. Steve is a 1973 graduate of Indiana University’s School of Music, where he was awarded a Bachelor of Music degree in trumpet performance. Since graduation he has been a professional trumpeter gathering experience “on the road” with the bands of the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, the Guy Lombardo Orchestra and more. Steve has also toured with stars like Perry Como, Andy Williams, Pia Zadora, Burt Bacharach, Steve Lawrence & Edy Gorme and the O’Jay’s. Steve is probably best known as a strong section player. He sat in with just about every local big band, most notably those of Jim Edison and Steve Allee.
Steve Hanna – Drums. Let’s start with Sandi Patty, Broadway Stories, Caroline Peyton, Doug Howell, Bob & Tom - Camel Toe, Denver & the Mile High Orchestra, Joni & Ken Tada, Daniel Narducci - Timeless Broadway and Ray Boltz.
Gary Potter – Bass. Gary is a former faculty member of San Francisco State University and the University of California Santa Cruz, and served as a visiting professor at the Musikwissenschaftliches Institute of the University of Hamburg (1991-92). His special interests include theory pedagogy, teaching musical skills, twentieth-century music and jazz studies. Potter's articles have been published in the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, College Music Symposium and Jazz Forschung. He has extensive experience as a performer on keyboards, trombone, and double bass with several published recordings and CDs.
Mike Lucas – Piano. Mike has conducted and or played with Johnny Mathis, Henry Mancini, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Tommy Dorsey Band, Jimmy Dorsey Band, Glen Miller Band, Sammy Kaye Band, Mills Brothers, Righteous Brothers, Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers and is the leader of The B-town Bearcats, a Traditional New Orleans Dixieland Jazz Band.
Robin Hopkins – Guitar. Robin has performed with Guy Lombardo, Jack Jones, Roy Eldridge, Eddie “Popeye” Egan, “Radar” Gary Burghoff, Erich Kunzel, Cab Calloway and Benny Goodman. Robin said, “I had the honor of performing at the Midwest Governors Conference, Jimmy Carter, Linda & Lady Bird Johnson. I also appeared on The Nick Clooney Show and the local feed of the Jerry Lewis Telethon.” When Robin moved back to Indianapolis he joined Tom Mullinix and the Naptown Strutters Dixieland jazz band. The band was kept busy with a steady engagement, society parties and functions throughout the Midwest. Robin’s association with that organization gave him the opportunity to play with legends of Wild Bill Davidson, Yank Lawson, Tony Bellson, Dave McKenna, and Barrett Deems (Louis Armstrong's drummer for many years). One of Robin’s most memorable experiences was an exciting weekend at the Grand Hotel where he was featured with the Grand Hotel Orchestra- on the bill with Pete Fountain and Herbie Hancock.
Ralph Adams - WICR Radio. Ralph addressed the microphone and talked a little about Jim Edison and his memories of the band. Ralph is celebrating 35 years of jazz radio broadcasting this year. He has a weekly Sunday jazz show on 88.7 WICR-FM. Ralph grew up in Chicago. His uncle was a pianist and a good friend with Nat King Cole; they played the club circuit together. His uncle tried to teach Ralph how to be a pianist. Ralph said he studied piano for a little bit, but that really wasn't his calling. He also tried playing the drums for a while, but eventually he fell into blowing a reed. Ralph played the alto and tenor in high school.
He always thought he wanted to be a musician, but the radio bug crept into his soul. He had a good friend who was a DJ in Chicago. "After I got out of high school, he introduced me to broadcasting. This was in the '60s, during the beginning of FM radio and we got a thirty-minute program." Ralph was into jazz and used his record collection for the program. He left Chicago in the '70s and came to Indianapolis. When he got here he started knocking on all the radio stations' doors. Ralph worked at a number of stations before getting hired at WICR in 1985. "I've been there ever since."
I sat as a spectator watching these 17 men make music. I realized here are 17 special and very talented musicians to watch. One never tires of watching something or someone. You have the soloists to watch, then a lead player to watch and then the team blending and bending the music into a product that creates an emotion inside your soul. It can be very emotional at moments sitting there watching and listening. It’s almost like a sports team. It works. It works because the team is in sync creating a thing of absolute beauty. Now that’s what I call… Livin Large on the BLVD.