[ * Introductory Autoplay Snippet: 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]
"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:
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.
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.
our 38th year, led by founder/director Ted Unseth, the Americana Classic Jazz Orchestra continues to perform their unique,
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
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 and Ted
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
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.
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
--Early Original Band-Live!
--Early Original Band--LPs
--20th Anniversary Band
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.
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!
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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".
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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: