When the JazzHappensBand returns “(Back Home Again) in Indiana,” the seven musicians turn a warm homecoming into a hot happening.
First, trumpeter Jeff Dovi (pronounced DOUGH-vee) plays a mournful melody before the entire ensemble kicks in to swing it and wing it. Suddenly, they stop…and Dovi blows the slow head again to truly take it home.
No wonder their crowds clap like crazy! This Cortland, N.Y. combo revels in authentic Dixieland dynamics.
‘Big Butter & Egg Man’
Formed in 2005, the JazzHappensBand features trumpeter Jeff Dovi, trombonist Mike Poole, clarinetist Nick Pauldine, tuba player Jim Overhiser, banjo player Robbert van Renesse, pianist Steve Wilson, and drummer David Alexander.
Bandleader Dovi feels fortunate to have found six kindred souls with which to make music. “They all enjoy the same kind of music as I do,” he said.
So a dozen years ago, Dovi dove right in. “I obtained two ‘fake’ books; one in C and the other in Bb. The music is just the melody with the chord progressions written above. Well, some of the tunes we were familiar with – like ‘Saints,’ ‘Indiana’ and ‘Bill Bailey’ – but the majority of tunes I hadn’t heard before. They have names like ‘I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None of This Jelly Roll,’ ‘Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me,’ and ‘I Want a Big Butter and Egg Man.’ “I just told the boys that I wasn’t a good chart reader, so let’s learn the melody and then improvise around the tune and provide the spontaneous harmonies.”
‘Ain’t She Sweet?’
And the band began a regular Sunday-afternoon rehearsal. “We affectionately refer to it as the Sunday Jam,” Dovie said. “We play, listen to each other, try different things, and we have a blast!”
But what about that name, JazzHappens, with spaces between the words deleted? “Trombone player Mike Poole credits me with saying, ‘Jazz isn’t planned….it just happens,’” Dovi explained. “Hence the name of the band, The JazzHappensBand.”
A professional brassman for 36 years, Dovi attended Ithaca College as a music education major for one year before deciding to make music an avocation. He has performed in various brass ensembles, civic bands, big bands, theater pit orchestras, but his affinity for Dixieland finally inspired him to start his own group.
‘Jazz Band Ball’
A lifelong admirer of classic jazzmen such as Al Hirt, Fred “Mickey” Finn, Pete Fountain, and The Dukes of Dixieland, Dovi and his musicians carefully cover several of jazz’s earliest hits including “Ain’t She Sweet,” “Copenhagen,” and “Tin Roof Blues.”
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the initial recordings by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, and JazzHappens pays tribute with its version of “At the Jazz Band Ball.”
The JazzHappensBand’s CD, Turn Up the Music, features tracks such as “Dinah,” “Ory’s Creole Trombone,” and “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave to Me.” You can sample the band’s sound at jazzhappensband.com.
Over its 12-year career, the JazzHappensBand has entertained across the Empire State, playing gigs for the Jazz Appreciation Society of Syracuse, the Flower City Jazz Society of Rochester, and appearing at the Twin Tiers Jazz Festival in Elmira, the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, the Cortland Wine and Arts Fest, and the annual Fall Creek Porchfest in Ithaca, N.Y.
Russ Tarby is based in Syracuse NY and has written about jazz for The Syncopated Times, The Syracuse New Times, The Jazz Appreciation Society of Syracuse (JASS) JazzFax Newsletter, and several other publications.