This week it’s a snapshot of The Jim Cullum Jazz Band from 1993, just four years after the launch of the Riverwalk Jazz national radio series. Band members offer their favorite tunes with special guests Bobby ‘Lips’ Levine on saxophone, vocalist Stephanie Nakasian, trombonists Dan Barrett and Bob Havens, and jazz piano legend Dick Hyman.
As a young man, Jim Cullum developed his individual cornet sound listening to his father’s record collection of 78s featuring pre-World War II traditional jazz stylings, and memorizing horn solos by jazz greats. Jim counts among his influences the playing of early giants Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong, the blues singing of Bessie Smith and the playing of Texas cornetist Garner Clark. On this show, Jim performs a bittersweet Beiderbecke classic, “Lonely Melody,” and a hot performance of his own original, “Enchilada Man.”
Canadian Brian Ogilvie was a widely renowned saxophonist and clarinetist of extraordinary ability in the interpretation of early jazz forms. He was a 1989 winner of the prestigious National Canada Council of the Arts Award. Ogilvie had over twenty years’ experience with a variety of jazz ensembles, from duos to big bands. He played leading roles at numerous distinguished international jazz festivals. Brian was The Jim Cullum Jazz Band clarinetist/saxophonist from 1992 to 1995. After leaving the Band in 1995, Brian moved to New Orleans and worked aboard the Mississippi Queen riverboat. He continued to appear at jazz festivals in the states and abroad until his untimely death in 2004 at the age of 50. Brian Ogilvie composed a number of traditional jazz tunes. For our show this week, he contributed his “Fresno Rag.”
California native Mike Pittsley was introduced to traditional jazz through music camps sponsored by the Sacramento Jazz Society. Mike was The Jim Cullum Jazz Band trombonist from 1978 until 2000, and then rejoined the band in 2010. Pittsley has performed in musical theater orchestras in California and upon occasion is a traditional jazz educator in schools and at the Sacramento Jazz Society’s Traditional Jazz Band Camp. Mike considers Abram “Abe” Lincoln to be the hottest jazz trombonist of all time and has created a website devoted to his memory. For our show this week, Mike teams up with trombonists Dan Barrett and Bob Havens in tribute to the great Jack Teagarden with a trombone trio salute on “I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues.” Mike holds a commercial aircraft pilot’s license and enjoys flying whenever he can.
Columbus, Ohio native John Sheridan began his musical training on piano at the age of seven. His life was forever changed a year later when his father brought home a recording of Benny Goodman’s famous 1938 Carnegie Hall concert. Sheridan was immediately taken with Jess Stacy’s impromptu piano solo in the Goodman Orchestra’s performance of “Sing, Sing, Sing” on the recording of that landmark concert. Sheridan also considers Goodman pianist Teddy Wilson a primary influence.
After graduating from university in Columbus in 1968, Sheridan enlisted in the US Navy. He completed the basic course at the US Navy School of Music in Norfolk, Virginia, and was assigned to the prestigious US Navy Band in Washington, DC, serving there until his discharge in May of 1972. It was during his military service that John began arranging music. Sheridan relocated to the Dallas area and received his Master of Music degree in 1977 from North Texas State University. He joined The Jim Cullum Jazz Band in 1979 and has served as principal arranger for the Cullum Band and the radio series. Sheridan has written close to 1,000 arrangements for the ensemble, including those for the Band’s CBS Masterworks album of Porgy and Bess, and much of the material on Hooray For Hoagy, Super Satch, Shootin’ The Agate, as well as most arrangements for the Riverwalk Jazz public radio series.
For our show this week, John plays one of his many duets with piano legend Dick Hyman, Earl Hines’ “57 Varieties.” Jim and the band play one of John’s arrangements on an Eddie Condon classic, “Wherever There’s Love,” sung by Stephanie Nakasian and accompanied by tenor saxophonist Bobby “Lips” Levine.
John left The Jim Cullum Jazz Band at the end of 2002 to work as a freelance musician and arranger. He performed at jazz parties across the US and recorded extensively with his own “Dream Band” which includes vocalist Rebecca Kilgore. John Sheridan returned to The Jim Cullum Jazz Band in 2011.
Oklahoma native Howard Elkins grew up in El Paso, Texas and joined Jim Cullum in 1978. Howard was with the band continuously until his retirement in 2013. Inspired by Count Basie guitarist Freddie Green, Howard proved to be a rhythm guitarist par excellence and provided rock-solid time to the band’s rhythm section. He cites early Ellington banjoist Mike McKendrick as his model for the tenor banjo. Howard is the composer of the Riverwalk Jazz theme “Nightspell,” and he appears frequently on the radio series as a vocalist, as he does this week on “I Double Dare You” with Dick Hyman sitting in on piano. Howard Elkins plays a 1920s-vintage, Epiphone archtop, four-string tenor guitar and a 1930s Gibson tenor banjo. Currently, Howard enjoys tending his ten-acre pecan grove in Lytle, Texas.
Bassist Don Mopsick is a native of New Jersey and was educated at Rutgers College and the Manhattan School of Music. After moves to the Southwest and Central Florida, he played concert dates with many visiting and local jazz artists such as, Flip Phillips, Howard Alden, Warren Vaché Jr., Ken Peplowski, Clark Terry and more. Don joined The Jim Cullum Jazz Band in 1991 and stayed with the ensemble until 2010. He continues to enjoy an active and eclectic free-lance career, playing local concerts with Floridians Dick Hyman, Allan Vaché and Bill Allred as well as visiting artists.
On this broadcast, Don Mopsick offers the performance of his transcription of “Pagin’ the Devil,” a 1936 feature for Basie bassist Walter Page with the Kansas City Six.
Ed Torres hails from New York City and is a self-taught percussionist. He listened to his idols Gene Krupa and Zutty Singleton standing on sidewalks outside New York jazz clubs before he was old enough to gain admission. It wasn’t long before his hot drumming skills rivaled those of his mentors. Eddie joined The Jim Cullum Jazz Band in 1984 after a seven-year, free-lance career in Dallas. He left the Band in early 2000. Ed continues to free-lance around San Antonio.
For our show this week, Eddie Torres pays tribute to his hero Gene Krupa with the fiery Benny Goodman classic, “Sing, Sing, Sing.”
Photo credit for Home page image: Pianitst Dick Hyman. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Text based on Riverwalk Jazz script by Margaret Moos Pick © 1993