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Wednesday July 30, 2014
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Ann Arbor's big band

 

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The band's repertoire is extremely eclectic, ranging from the 1920s through today, and it seems to grow by the week, as members either compose new materials or bring in transcriptions of old recordings; indeed, Keller estimates that even after some pruning, the group still has almost 1,000 active charts. Some weeks it seems as if the performances are open rehearsals, as the orchestra tries out completely new material. None of this gets in the way of audience enjoyment, as the stand is filled with experienced musicians who can sight-read anything at the first try. A third of them have been with the PKO since the beginning, and have many years of experience with the top bands in the area; indeed, many are bandleaders themselves. The sections blend exquisitely, but many of the men are first-rate soloists, especially trumpeters Paul Finkbeiner and Brandon Cooper, trombonist Chris Smith, and pianists Jim Dapogny and Duncan McMillan, as well as the saxophonists — Andrew Bishop, Keith Kaminski, Mark Kieme, and Paul Klinger. Their efforts would never succeed without the hard-driving rhythm section headed by master drummer Pete Siers. The saucy vocalist is none other than Firefly owner Susan Chastain. All of this is kept together by the expressive personality and foundational bass work of the leader, Paul Keller.

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