ACJO 2015

ACJO 20th Anniversary with Benny Waters
A History of the ACJO/WCJO
Best of Original WCJO (1973 - 1979) - Volume 1
Best of Original WCJO (1974 - 1982) - Volume 2
Best of Original WCJO (1973 - 1979) - Jazz-influenced Classical
Early WCJO Bootleg 5 CD Box Set
Hot Jazz - The Jazz Age
CJO/CJE Blasts From The Past - You Tube Videos
WCJO Memorabilia
Ted Unseth, Composer/Arranger

Jabbo Smith_Valve Trombone_WCJO

[ *Click on the above link for:
: Cladys 'Jabbo' Smith (Trumpet Ace of the 1920's) Valve Trombone Solo for "Charleston Is The Best Dance After All" transcription (original: Charlie Johnson's Paradise Ten, 1929; Benny Carter, Arranger; Jabbo Smith, Trumpet Solo) performing as Special Guest with the Classic Jazz Orchestra at the Commodore Hotel, St. Paul, MN; Summer 1976]



Jazz - A Story Of Epic Proportions

Ted Unseth & the
Americana Classic Jazz Orchestra

[ formerly the Wolverines CJO ]

Click on the Link below for the ACJO Music Library. There are several categories/phases.  Choose individually or click on "Play All" for continuous play.

ACJO Music Library



“…irresistible.”  Mpls. Star/Tribune


“…utterly amazing.”  Chicago Tribune


"They dare to be different.”  Billboard


“They positively shout with energy.” TC Reader


"I rank this band among the Top Ten Big Bands in the country."  Carl Shunk, Willard Alexander Agency


"Outside of the original bands (most of which I saw personally), this is the most authentic Classic Jazz band project I've ever heard."   Nat Shapiro,  Producer for Mercury and Columbia Records; co-author, "Hear Me Talkin' To Ya" Jazz anthology


"Your Americana Classic Jazz Orchestra sure has 'fire'--I'll tell you it lifted me up and... boy, it was great to hear Benny Waters.  I got the Spirit and that's the Spirit of the music of Jazz in your band."  Nat Hentoff,  world-reknowned Jazz journalist


"I'm just thrilled to get the 'Americana Classic Jazz Orchestra 20th Anniversary Concerts - Collector's Edition' CD.  It's historic and  so valuable-- I treasure it."  Leigh Kamman, "The Jazz Image"; Minnesota Public Radio


"Unseth's devotion to the music of that period (the Jazz Age) is as scholarly as it is obsessive and there are few if any who can speak as intelligently and enthusiastically about music as Unseth." Bob Protzman, St. Paul Pioneer Press


“To lose what you’ve got would be like the day they put leashes on dogs.” Bill, For Pet’s Sake; Mpls., MN


“Ted, you are a National Treasure, which a more civilized society would cherish and treat accordingly.  Perhaps there is hope—many in the audience were caught up in the spirit of your Classic Jazz Orchestra and seemed truly entranced.”  Dr. Michael W. Fox, Mpls., MN




For the latest innovative 2012 concept, click on the link below:

Ted Unseth and Americana Classic Transcriptions for Orchestra - ACTO




[ Click on the Link below for ACJO 2013 Repertoire ]

ACJO 2013 Repertoire


Scanning The History Of Jazz Orchestras


 Founded in 1973 by Director Ted Unseth, the ACJO (formerly the Wolverines CJO) specializes in authentic note-for-note transcriptions of music from the ‘hot’ orchestras, popular between the World Wars.  House gigs in the early years included such Jazz Age nightspots as Scottie’s On Seventh in Minneapolis and the Commodore Hotel and Castle Royal in St. Paul.  


Special Guests have included trumpet aces Jabbo Smith and Doc Cheatham, alto sax marvel Benny Waters (91 years old!), Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington alumna Shirley Witherspoon.  We have opened for Lionel Hampton, Sarah Vaughan, Les McCann and Manhattan Transfer; and helped launch A Prairie Home Companion’s first National Broadcast. Our first two albums received coveted Four Star reviews in Downbeat Magazine. We played Inaugural Balls of Gov. Al Quie and President Jimmy Carter.


Now in our 38th year, led by founder/director Ted Unseth, the Americana Classic Jazz Orchestra continues to perform their unique, one-of-a-kind repertoire.   

Ted Unseth, founder of the Original Wolverines Classic Jazz Orchestra (WCJO 1973-1980) has returned to Minneapolis and is launching the AMERICANA Classic Jazz ORCHESTRA in 2010.
Hit the Highpoles.  Tell everyone you know.  It's deja vu all over again and then some:
Remember the '70's and Featured Female Vocalist, Joan Gudmestad?  Serendipity prevails and she will join us once again for our Minnehaha Falls 2010 re-entry into the Twin Cities Music Scene. 
We did it!  The gig was well-attended (and not rained out).  Joan Gudmestad did a great job.  And it was an equally great pleasure to have Joe Demko (also an alumnus from the Early Days) render Cab Calloway vocals. 
See Gig Photos below:


ACJO at M-haha Falls
August 16, 2010

Ted Unseth, Director
Americana Classic Jazz Orchestra



Joan Gudmestad

Joan and Ted

Joe Demko

Joe Demko

Ted Unseth

Americana Classic Jazz Orchestra, August 16, 2010
Bandleader Ted Unseth eyes Future Employee

Click on the Link below for a Video Snippet from the M-haha Falls Gig:

Video and Audio Links
It's best to right-click the link and choose "open in a new window".  Let it load in that window and you can return to this page without hitting the backbutton.

ACJO_M-haha Falls_2010_Video




Click on the Link/Picture below to go to the Main ACJO Music Library (hosted by ReverbNation).  When there, see the "Status" box (on the right) for accessing these 7 Categories as Playlists:
--Early Original Band-Live!
--Early Original Band--LPs
--Partnership Band
--Septet Band
--20th Anniversary Band
--2008-2010 Band
--Jazz-related Classical
I'll be adding more tunes, from time to time, so check back once in awhile.  An amazing panoply of repertoire, 100 per cent authentic.


Dedicated to the original philosophy and commitment to note-for-note re-creations of classic Americana/American Jazz Orchestra performances, Ted intends to pick up where he left off and provide, once again, this completely unique musical presentation to the Twin Cities area and beyond.



Americana Classic Jazz Orchestra


“Ever catch yourself grinning?…grinning happy because something made you feel good?  It happened to me the other night; and when I looked around, I saw it was making the people around me grin, too.”

--Dick Richmond, St. Louis Post Dispatch


“Authentic Old Wave”
 They say:

“…irresistible.”  Mpls. Tribune

“…utterly amazing.”  Chicago Tribune

"They dare to be different.”  Billboard

“They positively shout with energy.”  TC Reader 


Repertoire includes classic performances of these Jazz orchestras:

Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Don Redman,

Cab Calloway, James P. Johnson, Luis Russell,

Jabbo Smith, Clarence Williams, Coleman Hawkins,

Bennie Moten, Count Basie, Jimmie Lunceford,

Lionel Hampton, Paul Whiteman, Casa Loma,

Coon-Sanders, Gene Kardos.




“ACJO 20th Anniversary with Benny Waters” CD

available at:

We take a Classical approach to rendering hand-transcribed arrangements note-for-note accurately.  This includes all original Solos, which puts an extra burden on the players = they must, somehow, 'become' that soloist.  Results to this date have produced exceptional authentic interpretations.
This Living Museum of Classic American Music is Open For Business!






MP3 Sound Samples



Current Affairs


[CD Sampler available on request:]


Click on the Link below for a Snippet from ACJO 03/08/08 Session.  From the original Fletcher Henderson Orchestra "Rocky Mountain Blues" recording (1927).


Video and Audio Links
It's best to right-click the link and choose "open in a new window".  Let it oad on that page and you can return to this page without hitting the backbutton.

Rocky Mountain Tag_ACJO 2008

Click on Link below for ACJO 03/08/08 Snippet.  From Luis Russell Orchestra's "Saratoga Shout" (1930) recording.

Saratoga Shout_ACJO 2008_snippet

--Special Guests--

Rook Ganz

Herbert ‘Rook Ganz’ Thompson (1904 - 1979). Trumpet player/Bandleader. The legendary tenor sax giant Lester Young was a member of his band in the 1930’s. Rook had the talent to ‘make it big’, but it would have meant being on-the-road much of the time and he didn’t want to leave his family, so he remained a local player all his life. Many of the great Jazz players from the ‘30’ through the ‘60’s (Coleman Hawkins, Henry ‘Red’ Allen) were close associates and any time they were in the TC area, they’d guest-appear with his band—he was highly regarded by his peers. Rook became a good friend of the Wolverines CJO in the late ‘70’s, sat-in with the band often and was a guest performer on their second LP "Play That Thing". His style of playing --one word: Sweet. His favorite saying: "I love everybody."

Click on the Link below for a snippet of Rook's obligato soloing on the WCJO 2nd LP version of the original Clarence Williams Orchestra recording of "Speakeasy Blues", 1927. 


Speakeasy_WCJO_Rook Ganz obligato

Rook Ganz


Jabbo Smith

Cladys ‘Jabbo’ Smith (1908-1991). Trumpet Ace of the ‘20’s & ‘30’s. Raised in Jenkins’ Orphanage, Charleston, SC where he learned music rudiments and all the brass instruments. Ran away from the orphanage at age 16, joined Charlie Johnson’s Paradise Ten (more famous than Duke Ellington at the time) and made historic recordings for the Brunswick label as a rival to Louis Armstrong (some say he had more technical prowess than Louis). In 1935 recorded the first-ever inter-racial blues vocal with the Charles LaVere band. Settled in Milwaukee and faded into obscurity, working as an Avis car driver/mechanic. Many had thought he had passed away, but WCJO bandmember Dave Sletten and wife Cathy ‘tracked him down’ in Milwaukee, visited his home and convinced him to guest-appear with the WCJO in 1976-1977. Jazz bassist Milt Hinton described Jabbo as "the most unusual person I’ve ever met."

Click on the Link below for an MP3 Jabbo Smith valve trombone solo on the Benny Carter arrangement "Charleston Is The Best Dance After All", 1928.  Jabbo was our guest at the Commodore Hotel, St. Paul, MN in 1976.


Charleston Best_WCJO_Jabbo solo

Jabbo Smith


Doc Cheatham

Adolphus ‘Doc’ Cheatham (1905-1997). Trumpet player noted for his excellent music reading abilities, played 1st trumpet (lead trumpet, no solos) with Cab Calloway, Fletcher Henderson, Benny Carter, Teddy Wilson, Claude Hopkins and Benny Goodman (‘60’s). When the WCJO was invited to play at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 1980, Ted was asked if he’d like Doc Cheatham to guest-appear ("Of course"). Via phone, Ted asked if Doc would like to sing on a number called "Goin’ To Chicago Blues" and he said, "No one ever asked me to sing before, but, yes, I’d love to" = he was a big hit at the Festival and sang and played improvised trumpet solos ("For years I’d never soloed, but then it just came to me one day and I’ve done so ever since.") for the rest of his career. A true gentleman who always played his trumpet aimed towards the heavens.

 Click on the Link below left for an MP3 Sample of "Minnie the Moocher" performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival, 1980.  Doc Cheatham, Special Guest, Trumpet Solo.


Minnie_WCJO_Doc Cheatham solo

Doc Cheatham


Cab Calloway

Cabell ‘Cab’ Calloway (1907-1994). Bandleader/Vocalist. "King of the Hi De Ho". Famous for his ‘scat’ singing, Cab hired many of the finest musicians of the day and his bands were top-notch, high-energy outfits. In the ‘20’s, his was the house-band at the famous Cotton Club in Harlem, NYC. Cab’s music (and even dance-steps) were incorporated into several Betty Boop cartoons ("Minnie the Moocher", "The Old Man of the Mountain"). Cab appeared in the ’43 movie "Stormy Weather" and made something of a comeback in the 1980 "Blues Brother" film. Before the historic Prom Ballroom in St. Paul was razed, Ted produced a WCJO "Wrecking Ball" concert in 1987 and Cab Calloway was Special Guest—packed house, uproarious appreciation.

Sad to say, the sound man for the concert (a respected sound engineer from MN Public Radio) forgot to turn the tape recorder on, so there are no sound snippets to provide here.



Cab Calloway


Benny Waters

Benny Waters (1902-1998). Alto Saxophone/Vocalist. In his youth, studied at the New England Conservatory. In the ‘20’s, performed/recorded with Joe "King’ Oliver, Clarence Williams and Charlie Johnson. ‘30’s-‘40’s performed with Hot Lips Page, Claude Hopkins and Jimmie Lunceford. Moved to Europe in 1948 and enjoyed success and popularity there for many years. In 1991, Ted had read in a Wash., DC newspaper that Benny was back in the US, so asked him to guest-appear at Ted’s 20th Anniversary Concerts at Bandana Square, St. Paul, MN, October 1993. At 91 years of age, he was as vibrant as ever and blew the critics away with his fiery virtuosity (one columnist admitted to Ted: "Where’d you find this guy? I’d never even heard of him before but he’s amazing!").

Click on the Link below left for an MP3 Sample of legendary 91-year-old Alto Saxophonist Benny Waters playing the Intro to his "Benny's Blue Waters" composition.   Recorded Live! at the ACJO 20th Anniversary Concert; Bandana Square; St. Paul, MN; October 1993.


Blue Waters_ACJO_Benny Waters solo

Benny Waters

Bob Rockwell
Bob Rockwell (Robert Rockwell III).  Founding member of Natural Life, a Twin Cities-based cutting edge Jazz ensemble in the 1970's. 
Bob was Special Guest for the WCJO's first LP album (1974), playing several difficult note-for-note clarinet solos.
His comments on the session and repertoire: "Ted Unseth and his Classic Jazz Orchestra are a very dedicated and talented group.  Through their efforts, I learned about the roots of Black music.  The people whose solos I played (Jimmie Noone, Buster Bailey) were master musicians and I have learned as much from them as from Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and others.  All younger players should study this music as I believe it to be the foundation."
Bob moved to New York in 1978 and became a member of the seminal Thad-Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. This ensemble toured europe extensively. From 1979 he was engaged in performances with The Mel Lewis Orchestra, Tito Puente,Ben Sidran, Freddie Hubbard, Ray Drummond, Billy Hart, Rufus Reid, Victor Lewis, Ron McClure, Tom Harrell, Chuck Israels, John Hicks, Al Foster, Anthony Cox, Bill Dobbins, Keith Copeland, Clint Houston, Richie Bierach, etc.
Since 1983 Rockwell has lived in Copenhagen. Working in Scandinavia and beyond with artists such as Ernie Wilkins, Kenny Drew, Alex Riel, Marilyn Mazur & Kenny Wheeler. he has forged special relationships with Danish pianist Jan Kasperson & bass player Jesper Lungaard. He has been featured significantly in the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestras touring, broadcast and recording schedule.
Click on the Link below for Bob's note-for-note rendering of the original solo on the Paul Whiteman "Mississippi Mud" recording of 1928.

Miss Mud_WCJO_Bob Rockwell solo

Bob Rockwell


Bob Crea
I don't have a lot of Bio info on him, but he was one of the TC-based Jazz musicians who left town and 'made it big'.  His main gig was with the Buddy Rich Big Band.  We were lucky to have him as a Special Guest in the late '70's at the Prom Ballroom.  It was one of the last gigs he ever did. 
Not a famous name to most, but anyone who knew him or his playing thought he was a great underrated talent. 
Not long after his gig with us, he was admitted to a hospital (his health had been failing for some time) in the TC area.  When Buddy Rich and his band were in the area for a gig, he asked about Bob, went to the hospital to see him and, before leaving, paid all of Bob's medical bills--without telling Bob that he had done so--Buddy held Bob Crea in the highest esteem; and so did we.
Click on the Link below for Bob Crea's solo on our CJO version of the 1948 Lionel Hampton Big Band recording of "Jaybird".

Bob Crea

Jaybird_WCJO_Bob Crea solo

Eddie Berger

Broadcaster, educator, and master-musician, Eddie Berger was born in Philadelphia in 1932.  Eddie honed his skills playing in Philly for a while and toured with the Continentals before being drafted into the army during the Korean War.

Eddie Berger moved to Minneapolis and brought bebop to the prairie. Playing many clubs, including long standing gigs with his group the Jazz All-Stars at Williams Pub and the Artists' Quarter, Berger also hosted a popular weekly jazz radio show on KFAI for 20 years. His latest swinging recording with the All-Stars is “I'm Glad There is You”.

Eddie Berger was the Bop Master in the Twin Cities.  If you knew him, he would stop you on the street, point to one of his feet and say, “There ain’t nothin’ like Shoe Business.”  A Show Biz guy he was not; a dedicated Jazz player he most certainly was.


Click on the Link below for Eddie’s solo with the WCJO on the Lionel Hampton Bop Big Band classic, “Jaybird”.

Jaybird_WCJO_Eddie Berger solo

Eddie Berger

Butch Thompson

In a career spanning over 40 years, pianist and clarinetist Butch Thompson has earned a worldwide reputation as a traditional jazz and ragtime master. He tours widely as a soloist or at the helm of any of his several ensembles, including his well-known trio, his eight-piece Jazz Originals band, the Butch Thompson Big Three, or his unique chamber music duo with cellist Laura Sewell. He has performed with many symphony orchestras, including the Hartford Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, the Erie Philharmonic, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Cairo (Egypt) Symphony.  Widely known for his 12-year stint as house pianist on public radio’s A Prairie Home Companion, he continues on the show as a frequent guest.


Click on the Link below for Butch's piano solo on the ACJO rendering of the Bennie Moten/Bill ('Count') Basie Orchestra recording "Toby", 1932. 



Toby_ACJO_Butch Thompson solo

Butch Thompson

Shirley Witherspoon
Shirley Witherspoon was a jazz vocalist with a heavy gospel influence, who was often compared to blues shouter Etta James and jazz legend Dinah Washington. Her first big break came as a vocalist with Duke Ellington in 1969. Although the engagement was brief, it did include some memorable moments, including a performance at the inauguration of President Nixon. She spent the '70s in Los Angeles, but returned to her home of Minneapolis, MN, in the '80s, building a strong following and reputation through her own local showcases and tributes to Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith. She eventually recorded two albums of jazz standards, Where Do I Sign? in 1994 and Magic & Love in 1999. Health problems began to take their toll on the singer in the '00s, and she died of heart failure on June 12, 2003.
Shirley performed with the WCJO in the early 1980's and with the ACJO in 1993 for the 20th Anniversary Concerts in St. Paul.  She was a joy to work with. 
Click on Link below for the 'Shirley Wail' on the WCJO rendering of the Cab Calloway Orchestra recording of "Some Of These Days", 1930.

Some Days_WCJO_Shirley solo

Shirley Witherspoon

Prudence Johnson
Prudence was a co-founder with Tim Sparks of the vocal jazz group Rio Nido. The group recorded three albums and performed extensively, most often in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area.  She is a long-time and regular guest performer on Garrison Keillor's radio program, A Prairie Home Companion.
Prudence performed with the WCJO in the early '80's and I consider her to be one of the finest Jazz vocalists in the world.

Minnie_WCJO_Prudence Johnson scat

Prudence Johnson




Ted E Boy




Ted E Boy (nom de plume of Theodore P. Unseth) was/is known primarily for his arranging/transcribing and Classic Jazz Orchestra coordinating.  But, on rare occasions, he could be found in front of a microphone, straightening his bowtie and attempting what some might call Crooning (others will disagree). 

Click on the Link below to hear Ted E Boy ‘tell it like it is’ at McGuire’s Supper Club (just outside of Mpls., MN) in 1981 as the CJO does the old ‘you got that right’/’strut your stuff, strew your mess’ jive in the background:

Goin' To Chicago_WCJO_Ted croon

Ted E Boy

You Tube Video
Click on the Link below for
Ted Unseth and the
Americana Classic Jazz Orchestra
"I Gotcha"
Don Redman Orchestra  1939
Ted Unseth, Vocal

ACJO - WCJO KTCA-TV "I Gotcha" You Tube Video




Click this Link for "Ted Unseth and the Americana Classic Jazz Orchestra 20th Anniversary Concert with Special Guest Benny Waters" CD




Please visit Ted Unseth's website via the Link below.

Ted Unseth Website