Ann Arbor Weather:
Monday April 19, 2021
Follow us: facebook twitter RSS feed
Phil Ogilvie's Rhythm Kings horn section

Phil Ogilvie's Rhythm Kings

Dance, dance, dance

by Piotr Michalowski

From the January, 2011 issue

Jim Dapogny is well known to music lovers all over the globe for his deep knowledge of early jazz, for his piano playing, and for his arranging skills. In addition to his many other projects, he has been co-leading Phil Ogilvie's Rhythm Kings in regular Sunday late- afternoon performances for the last ten years, first at the Firefly Club, and now at PJ's on First Street.

Dapogny is both a scholar and a performer in love with the early history of American jazz and popular music. His passions are not well hidden, and as bandleader he dishes out droll commentary from behind the piano, replete with delightful arcana but without a trace of pedantry. The Rhythm Kings replicate the makeup of the standard 1920s or early 1930s dance orchestra, with three saxophonists doubling on clarinets, three brass instruments, and a rhythm section of piano, drums, guitar or banjo, and tuba.

Sharing the direction is multi-instrumentalist Chris Smith. Known to many as a fabulous trombonist, he learned how to play the tuba and the cornet just to work with Dapogny. He's now a fine tubaist; his nimble control of the big horn gives a particular idiomatic weight to the rhythm section, so that on evenings when he has to take over trombone duties and is replaced by a string bass player, the sound of the band just does not seem the same.

The Rhythm Kings' repertoire covers a wide range of early dance band material, from corny novelty numbers to the sophisticated arrangements of Duke Ellington from his Cotton Club days. Some come with surprises, such as a vocal chorus by the whole band on the well-known standard "Crazy Rhythm"-I have heard this piece countless times, but had no idea that it had lyrics. The sum total of their repertoire is close to 380 items, although new pieces constantly replace those that have outlived their usefulness. The leaders and band members have transcribed some from original recordings, while others are

...continued below...


stock arrangements from Dapogny's extensive archives. But the notes on the page are of little use if they are not played correctly, and the strength of the Kings resides in the musicians' unforced idiomatic interpretations. Even within the time period that they cover, there were competing styles of playing, from the saccharine straight vibrato of certain society dance bands to the moaning, bluesy playing of Ellington's sidemen or the majestic flights of Louis Armstrong's early style. Whether playing in section or improvising a solo, all ten band members play idiomatically, without falling into soulless antiquarianism.

While many come to PJ's to listen, have a drink or two, and a bite to eat, the Rhythm Kings, true to their art, are above all a dance band. Fortunately, the lounge has a nice dance floor that is put to good use by Sunday patrons of all ages. The leaders plan the sets accordingly, alternating tunes with different tempos and dance styles, sometimes even obliging with a waltz medley. For dancing or listening, the Rhythm Kings offer a unique way of spending an early Sunday evening.     (end of article)

[Originally published in January, 2011.]

 


 
Bookmark and Share
Print Comment E-mail

You might also like:

Photo: Virtual School in Ann Arbor. Gouache painting by Jaye Schlesinger.
Bon Bon Bon Arrives
From Hamtramck to Nickels Arcade, via Katoi and Zingerman's.
Micheline Maynard
Jatin Dua and Sanne Ravensbergen
Love in the time of the coronavirus
Sue Maguire
Inside My Journey To Get A Covid Vaccine, by Micheline Maynard
Urban Mining
"She went out to go to work in the morning, started the car, and it sounded like a bomb exploded."
Micheline Maynard
Nightspots: Oz's Music Environment
Government in Dexter
Frita Batidos Is Back
With more space and a new menu
Micheline Maynard
Inexpensive Hotels
Public Schools Calendar
A guide to ann Arbor area summer camps and activities
Level One Bank. We're here for you. Click here for the latest updates about banking centers.
a2view the Ann Arbor Observer's weekly email newsletter