Jazz concert is favorite event at yearly festival

Queen City band, quartet play originals, iconic tunes

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Happy jazz fans gathered at Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton on Aug. 16 for the 13th annual Littleton Jazz Foundation Concert, featuring Queen City Jazz Band, with vocalist Wende Harston. QCJB followed a start-up set by QCJB pianist Hank Troy’s Quartet, with vocalist M. Cateret and a bassist, drummer and guitarist.

About 200 attended this annual Western Welcome Week event, organized by longtime resident Charlie Carroll.

Troy introduced his quartet’s set as selections “from the Great American Songbook” and Cateret began with “Fools Rush In,” followed with Johnny Mercer’s “I Remember You” and continued with silky renditions of standards as Troy’s fingers danced across the keyboard.

After a brief intermission, members of the Queen City Jazz Band took their places on stage, with brass players marching in together, including leader/tubist Bill Clark arriving last and quickly launching the group into the first number. A retired professor, Clark can’t resist educating his audience a bit — so we heard about rags, “Mississippi type” and others. As a kid in New Orleans, Louis Armstrong got a trumpet and learned to play rags, playing with King Oliver’s band. Oliver, on tour, called the young man to Chicago to play with his band … the rest is history. At those early New Orleans concerts, they played a cake walk. Best dancers would perhaps win a cake to take home.

“Walkin’ With the King” by Wende Harston and band followed here, introducing QCJB’s newest album by that name.

Clark reminisced about early jazz pianist Jelly Roll Morton, who “traveled the country with a band — and was also a great pool hustler and ran an `escort service’ …” “He made a lot of money,” Clark observed. Morton’s “Black Bottom Stomp” followed on the program. Then we learned about trombonist Kid Ory and his Creole trombone, as illustrated by Eric Steffan. “A traditional Dixieland band par excellance,” Clark said.

As is the custom with this delightful band, instrumental solos stood out: clarinetist John Bredenberg, trumpeter Kevin Bollinger, pianist Hank Troy, trombonist Eric Staffeldt.

Harston kicked in with the bands’ tongue-in-cheek tribute to western Welcome Week — “Cow-Cow Boogie.”

Harston continued to lecture briefly: The first blues appeared about 1920. She spoke of singer Ma Rainey and broke into “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Blues.”

The versatile band followed Harston into a gospel number. (Her dad was a pastor and she grew up singing gospel music.) “I’ll Fly Away.”

“What a Wonderful World” (shades of Louie Armstrong) closed out the evening.

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