Big Band Brass Plays Some Hot Jazz On Broadway

Cameo Jazz Band Featured At Gessner's

September 27, 1991|By Michael R. Driscoll | Michael R. Driscoll,Staff writer

Jazz is alive and well in Anne Arundel County, right in the heart ofBroadway -- Dick Gessner's Broadway Corner out on Revell Highway, tobe exact.

Jim DeWitt's Brass Cameo Jazz Band has been playing there 8 p.m. Wednesday nights since July.

Their stock in trade includes brass-oriented numbers from some ofthe top American composers of the 1930s, '40s and '50s, including Jerome Kerns, Harold Arlen, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer, Jimmy Van Heusen and many others.

The band is slowly developing a following of discriminating jazz fans.

Annapolis resident Lloyd Ross says he's a devoted fan who never misses his weekly date with the band.

"They play jazz the way it's supposed to be played," says Ross. "They play all the old, good tunes. They're great musicians, and this is just not the kind of thing that you can't hear in Annapolis any more.

"Actually, you can't even hear it in D.C. too much,except for a special event. You can't catch it in Baltimore either. This is one of the styles that doesn't get played enough."

Gessneris a longtime friend of DeWitt's.

"I know he's a fine musician, and he brings in good musicians. It's quality material, and we want quality. Whatever we do, we want quality."

DeWitt says the group hasenjoyed the gig at Gessner's.

"We do no rehearsing, the music just comes out of our head and goes right out there, and so far the audience has been very positive. It beats working," he said.

To fill out the group, DeWitt assembled a collection of people who, like him, had never really gotten all the music out of their souls.

Chris Hofer of Baltimore plays bass, Ed Crow of Washington, D.C. drums, and Robert Redd of Silver Spring plays piano.

DeWitt, who makes the trek every week from McClean, Va., to lead his band, grew up with music.He turned professional early, but drifted away from it in college. He eventually drifted into the business world.

After retiring from the Eastman Kodak Co., he decided to renew ties with his original love, music, and formed the group about a year ago.

DeWitt chose the name Brass Cameo to reflect what his group does. "Most of the music we play is brass-oriented -- I play cornet, trumpet and the fluegelhorn -- and use those frequently throughout the night.

"And we play cameo selections from some of the greatest American composers and try to refine that as much as possible. It makes for some very nice music."

He also compared the cameo aspect of the band's repertoire to art.

"The cameo was one of my mother's favorite forms of jewelry. Acameo is center-cut, taken right out of the center, and that's what we do -- take a lot of these center-cut tunes and put them in a brasssurrounding."

DeWitt said his group's repertoire concentrates on the standards, in a style he described as "straight-ahead jazz."

The songs, he says, "musically hang together very well, they're fun toplay, and fun for people to listen, too."

Plus, he said, the music is "structurally interesting to play." As an example, he cited one tune, "Falling in Love With Love," originally from a Cole Porter musical entitled "The Boys From Syracuse."

"It was originally performed as a waltz, but we play it in four-time (more up tempo, or faster) and it comes out as one burner of a jazz tune. It works out very wellthat way."

The Brass Cameo Jazz Band, plays 8 p.m. Wednesdays through October (except Oct. 2) at Dick Gessner's Broadway Corner, 71 Revell Highway, Annapolis. Information: 974-1825.

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