Leah Bezin “The Heartbeat of the Band”

Leah Bezin, banjoist with Chicago's award-winning West End Jazz Band, considers music a species of divine insanity. “People who love jazz are marked. It's a gift from God.” Leah was born into a musical family. Her father, Tom Nayder, played string bass and rhythm guitar with the Windy City Ramblers, a Western Swing group popular in the Chicago area. Leah's Mom, Maryann Albach, appeared on the WLS National Barn Dance as the Yodeling Cowgirl. The two met square dancing and married after World War II. Maryann collected antiques. One day she brought home a hand-cranked Victor console phonograph stocked with records, won at a farm auction for $2.50. Leah was immediately fascinated with the records, which included "Roodles" by the Coon-Sanders Orchestra and "Doctor Jazz Stomp" by Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers, as well as discs by Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians, George Olsen, and Ben Bernie. Learned Piano First Leah's discovery of hot dance and jazz led to her interest in the banjo. “The banjo,” she says, “is the heartbeat of the band.” Tom Nayder insisted that all his children learn piano first to get the fundamentals of music before trying another instrument. Having the basics of piano, Leah received banjo tutelage from the clarinet player for the Chicago Shrine Circus. In addition to chords, he taught her single-string technique using second violin parts. But, sh
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