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20 years of jazz

Jazzin’ to celebrate 20th anniversary

June 17, 2012
dsp By JOSH BROKAW - Sun-Gazette Correspondent , Williamsport Sun-Gazette

There's some musical styles that never go out of style and one of those is good old American jazz. The group Jazzin' will demonstrate its proficiency in the genre when the band performs its 20th anniversary show at 7:30 p.m. July 7 at the Community Theatre League, 100 W. Third St.

Audiences shouldn't expect to hear just straight-ahead swing and bebop, leader Dick Adams said, though that's the stuff the group first got together to play.

"(Trumpeter) Rob Bynum had come back from Berklee School of Music, in Boston, and I'd spent a summer there," Adams said. "Bynum wanted to do a jazz recording, and so we got some guys together in the area, and we decided to keep it going, to see if we could get some jobs lined up."

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The group Jazzin’ will perform its 20th anniversary show at the Community Theatre League, 100 W. Third St., at 7:30 p.m. July 7.

The group - Dick Adams, Bynum, keyboardist Steve Adams, bassist Ken Wittman and percussionist Bob Leidhecker - played a weekly Wednesday gig at The Pub from the mid-1980s for some years, helping them hone their craft. At the beginning, Jazzin' played a goodly amount of '70s fusion in the Grover Washington-Weather Report vein, and through the years, has added more show standards, television music, rock and R&B to their repertoire.

"Eclectic - there's a word for you - our set lists have evolved," Dick Adams said. " 'On Broadway,' by George Benson, the 'I Love Lucy' theme, those are a couple. Since I can play guitar, we can throw in some rock music that people know."

The CTL shows began in 1992, when that venue was located at Kingdom Hall on Washington Boulevard.

After years of all-instrumental shows, Jazzin' made their annual show into a collaboration with the Vocal Jazz Quartet. Now that the latter group has its own annual show, Cathy Bynum, wife of Rob and VJQ member, joins Jazzin' on stage for a few numbers.

The group has played around the region at numerous colleges and theaters, and presented a master class at Dickinson College, Carlisle, about five years ago. Jazzin' is isn't the only group the members perform in - several of them have played together in other groups.

Dick Adams has played with the Bobby McCreary Big Band and besides reeds, can play guitar, congas and drums, adding some versatility to the group that allows for ventures into rock.

"The cat can really blow," said Wittman of Adams. "He's one of the best musicians you'll ever meet."

Adams and Bynum have both played with the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra and the latter, a Mansfield graduate, has composed charts for the WSO, including the 2005 Pops performance with Davy Jones of the Monkees, and also plays in the Billtown Brass.

Bynum and Leidecker both toured with Spiral Starecase, perhaps best known for the 1969 hit "More Today Than Yesterday," Leidecker played in the Empire Brass Quintet for a decade, including for its acclaimed "On Broadway" album, and teaches at Loyalsock Township High School and Lycoming College.

Steve Adams is a pharmacist by day. Wittman builds basses and also created the "Spinstrap," a stress-relieving instrument strap for guitars, saxophones and bassoons made famous in the 1984 video for ZZ Top's "Legs," a single of the group's definitive album "Eliminator," when the bearded gentlemen from Texas spun furry guitars round and round.

Wittman also makes an on-board tuner, the miniTuner, used by musicians like Bela Fleck.

"We keep playing and adding songs," Adams said. "We want to keep the audience interested and hopping."

Tickets are $25 for two adults, $15 each and $8 for students, and available at ctlnet.org.

 
 

 

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