Band leader and saxophonist Dick Washeck formed Night Session about a year ago. The group is one of only a few big bands that are active in the area.
Nick Garvin and Dick Washeck are living proof that age is just a number.
Sixty years stand between the two - until the first wave of big-band music envelops them. Then the years fall away, leaving just two guys who are In the Mood to Jump, Jive an' Wail.
Music is a magnet, attracting both those who make it and those who move to it. And this particular music - whose heyday occurred more than half a century ago - still has the power to unite the teenager, the septuagenarian, and other musicians in just about every decade in between. Together the local performers make up an 18-member big-band orchestra called Night Session.
The music endures, Mr. Washeck said, because "it appeals to a cross-section of people, young and old alike."
Nick, the 15-year-old pianist, and Mr. Washeck, 75, saxophonist and band leader, are the youngest and oldest members of the group that was formed about a year ago from the ashes of Mr. Washeck's original Night Session, which performed in the area for about 20 years starting in the late 1970s. Night Session plays oldies from Glenn Miller, Louis Prima, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and their contemporaries as well as more recent pop and rock tunes shaped by the big-band/swing sounds of saxophones, trumpets, and trombones.
Between Nick and Mr. Washeck are band members in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. Among the musicians are a high school band director and his wife, a nurse practitioner; an engineer, two employees of Toledo Parks, Recreation, and Forestry, and a retired Lutheran minister. Mr. Washeck is a retired counselor and former band director at Lake High School. Nick is a sophomore at Central Catholic High School.
Night Session plays two to three dates a month, including park concerts, weddings, and a regular gig the first Wednesday of every month at Bedford Hills Golf Course in Temperance that's free and open to the public.
"The entire band is just so cool," Nick said. "They've been great at helping me figure out the different rhythms."
Classically trained, he has struggled with the loosey-goosey spontaneity of jazz. "Now I have a lot more of an appreciation for it, since I know how hard it is to actually do improvisation," Nick said.
He auditioned for the band at the urging of his father, Denny, 43, who plays alto saxophone, clarinet, and flute with Night Session.
"I didn't think I did so hot," Nick admitted. "With them being a bunch of old pros and me just exploring the world of jazz, it was kind of intimidating."
But those old pros were impressed - and still are.
"I'm just amazed by that young man who plays piano," marveled Arlene Bloomer, 69, a member of the trombone section.
Mrs. Bloomer started her musical training early, too, inspired by her trombone-playing father. "He made me wait until the sixth grade. He said my arm wasn't long enough," she recalled.
A retired elementary school music teacher, Mrs. Bloomer said she's drawn to the sweet, singable melodies of the swing era. Other big-band fans find memories of their youth, old flames, and old friends in the music.
One can sit and soak it in or get up and move - swaying gently, romantically, or furiously twirling, kicking, bouncing.
"It puts people together, touching one another, and there is a communication. Definitely a romantic communication between the couple that may not exist with current dancing," Mr. Washeck said.
"It's got a lotta drive. It's just a wall of sound," said Denny Garvin. "As a musician, it's some of the most fun and challenging music we encounter."
Night Session is one of only a handful of big bands that are active in the area, including the Johnny Knorr Orchestra, which is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year.
It takes a lot to put such a group together, noted Brad Behrendt, a 39-year-old computer engineer who plays trumpet and flugelhorn with Night Session. Partly, that's because a big band requires more musicians than a rock band, but it also can be more difficult and costly to get the sheet music everyone needs. "Some of the charts are not in print anymore," he pointed out.
But musicians such as these jump at the chance to do what they love. Growing up, they played in school bands and sang in church choirs. Into adult lives heavy with family and career responsibilities, they've squeezed in music by joining community bands, teaching, or forming little groups of their own to perform at clubs, private parties, and festivals.
"We're not really in it for the money," Mr. Behrendt said. "We just love to play."
Contact Ann Weber at: firstname.lastname@example.org