Wolverines Classic Jazz Orchestra
Ramada Inn; Mpls.-St. Paul, MN
By this time, we had a full-time Manager, David Louis
Rodgers. He was a major factor in our early success, working tirelessly to get
us good quality gigs. Somehow, he convinced a suburban Ramada Inn to hire us 6
days (Mon-Sat) a week for a month. Audience turnout/appreciation was irregular
and minimal, but we surely sharpened our skills here—we’d learn something from
one night and improve on things the next. Plus, we also had our regular Sunday
night gig at the Longhorn Saloon downtown Minneapolis. We also had an Ironic
Situation: our Tuba/Bass player, Chuck Greve had a regular full-time day-gig (a
rarity in our group); and doing both took its toll—when we’d take a break,
Chuck would hunker down behind the music stands and nap.
Several of these charts were/are on our first LP
record, which I’m glad we made, but was a bit disappointed in the overall
quality and feel. This gig, however, got most everything right: good PA
settings, good execution and feel from players.
Of special note are the two Jazz-related Classical
pieces: “Copland Piano Concerto Excerpts” and “Riffs” (Leonard Bernstein). On
special occasions, I always featured Special Arrangements by Classical
composers writing in a Jazz style (theoretically, at least). This Ramada gig
wasn’t that ‘special’ per se (not like Orchestra Hall where we featured both of
these charts), but I figured this was a good place for us to practice these
(many times, there’s be no one in the audience).
We still had Mark Bryn on Piano and Johnny Olson on
Violin, so we could do specialty charts that enhanced the variety aspect.
I’m glad we did the Jabbo Smith tribute “Lina Blues”.
Jabbo was soon to be our Special Guest at the Commodore Hotel (a whole ‘nother
story): kudos to Dave Sletten for handling all of the Alto Sax riffing.
Also of note: “Squeeze Me”. I played lead Alto Sax,
but switched to Tenor Sax (a rarity for me) for the solo after the Trombone
solo. Not bad for a Norwegian-derived Minnesotan.
be told, we were not what you’d call
‘professional’ players in the strict sense of the word (read anything,
improvise effectively), but rather a bunch of highly motivated ‘fakirs’ who
took a Classical Approach—study the originals and play as close as possible to
the way the originators did. 100% Authenticity, most importantly including
original solos (which few if any other classic jazz bands bother with).