Stage Door Canteen, "Live in Chicago"
By: James Thomas, April 20, 2012
Courtesy Stage Door Canteen - The 12-piece Stage Door Canteen gets the crowd jumping with its swinging big band sound.
James Thomas is a musician, educator and writer who lives in his native Sandwich. He currently performs on trombone, trumpet, and vocals with popular Cape Cod acts including Stage Door Canteen, Pocketful of Soul, JABU and the Tribesman, Connors & Company, and his own James Thomas Jazz Group. Between shows and afterparties, he is writing updates from the band’s 20th anniversary railroad tour of the Midwest this week. Click here for his first installment!
Monday, April 16
Sometimes in life, you do get upstaged. I guess it’s a question of how you handle it.
Our second Chicago gig was at Reggie’s Music Joint on South State Street, with the outstanding concert jazz orchestra M13 opening up.
M13 features compositions and arrangements by leader Aaron McEvers and the talents of some of Chicago’s finest improvising musicians. They’re an incredible band well worth checking out.
Spurred on by those amazing openers, Stage Door answered the bell. Both Jessica Curran and Peter Cook were in particularly good voice. Picking up the gauntlet left at the drum kit by M13 drummer Tom Hipskind, Jeff Dodge brought it hard all night through a hugely diverse set ranging from repertory big band to driving Motown.
The first set from the Reggie’s show will be released as our third album: Live in Chicago.
Reggie’s is a very cool place. If you’re ever there, check out the record store that sits nearby: they’ve got a massive collection of excellent vinyl. Don’t forget to give Elvis the dog a well-deserved tummy rub while you wander the stacks.
Tuesday April 17
The final leg of the rail tour found us the Gallery Cabaret in Bucktown, another top-notch big band venue featuring both progressive and traditional ensembles on a regular schedule. Check out their YouTube channel where you can view several of their phenomenal house bands.
But this was a Tuesday, and Tuesdays at the Gallery Cabaret are all about the blues. There’s a long-running blues jam hosted by Fish and the Blue Fins that’s known to draw takers from across Chicago. We were there to open for the jam.
We started early…. in an empty room. But it was cool; we went deep into the book and played for ourselves and for one another. We got to do some stuff that we’d been hoping for, including a couple of classic Buddy Rich charts.
Feeling relaxed, we opened up the solo sections and let everyone get a taste, including a raging, time-stopping baritone sax solo from Dan Sullivan.
If you build it, they will come. And they did. As the blues jam drew nigh, the place filled up. We gave ‘em the primo stuff and ended- as we do on special occasions- with the epic Now’s the Time/Mama No’ low to whoops and cheers from the Cubbies faithful.
The Voyage Home
At the end of the day (a very, very long day) Roger realized his lifelong dream. His big band, named in honor of his father and the other men who fought the War, took the old Lake Shore Limited from South Station to Union Station and played the swingers at the Midway. Everything about it was old school.
As for the brotherhood and fellowship shared by all, I would not cheapen it by trying to describe it in this format. The CD will be out sometime next month. If you really want to know what happened out there, pick up a copy. It’s all in the music.