Downtown Dixieland Band concerts are like watching a group of big kids playing a game with rules they're making up as they go along.
Downtown Dixieland Band concerts are like watching a group of big kids playing a game with rules they’re making up as they go along.
Bearing a childlike imagination that allows its musicians to believe nothing’s impossible, the seasoned performers show off their improvisational skills at any given time, keeping their live shows unpredictable and fresh.
The Downtown Dixieland Band, an ensemble of the Milford Community Band, will transform the Riverwalk Farmer’s Market into its own sandbox on Saturday, June 7.
The band will perform a repertoire that includes American standards and jazz classics from the late 1800s to early 1900s, in which some of the tunes have been uniquely rearranged.
The Downtown Dixieland Band will play an hour at the Farmer’s Market, a venue the gang has performed at, at least four times.
“The Farmer’s Market is great,” said trombonist Kay Meade of Milford. “The sun will be shinning, people will be buying vegetables and flowers, and the band will be playing. It’s an honor to be a part of creating that ambience for the people of Milford.”
Some of the songs in the band’s set list are George Cobb and Jack Yellen’s country hit “Alabama Jubilee,” Jelly Roll Morton’s swing-era jazz standard “King’s Porter Stomp” and Lewis F. Muir and L. Wolfe Gilbert’s ragtime classic “Waiting for the Robert E. Lee.”
The Downtown Dixieland Band plays a beefed-up version of “Waiting for the Robert E. Lee” that Meade rearranged. Meade says the piece adds recognizable maritime tunes such as “snippets from Sammy Lerner’s ‘I’m Popeye the Sailor Man,’ ‘Sailor’s Hornpipe’ and we have a section from ‘Ol’ Man River.’”
Meade’s ability to arrange music in such a clever way has made her a big asset to the Downtown Dixieland Band.
“She’s one of my right-hand men,” said band leader Joe Leer of Milford.
Meade is the only woman in the Dixieland Band, a seven-piece comprised of members who are all in their 50s, except for drummer Sammy Seibert, who’s still a teenager. But the wide gaps in gender and age aren’t a barrier to the musicians in the group, because everyone has a love for Dixieland music, a genre that’s rooted in spontaneity.
When a member of the Dixieland Band decides to adlib during a given song, it creates a contagious energy that flows to the others, encouraging them to join in on the action. As a result, the musicians become more preoccupied with jamming together than focusing on their differences.
“You don’t stop to think about who’s old or who’s male and who’s female,” she said. “We’re in the moment of the piece we’re playing.”
Meade likens the band’s adlibbing to the free-spirited Harlem Globetrotters basketball team.
“If you were going to compare us to sports a team, that’s who we’d be,” she said.
Dixieland music is a style of jazz created in New Orleans, La., during the early 1900s. New Orleans bands helped to spread the vibrant sound to Chicago, Ill., and New York City around 1910.
Leer grew up in Texas listening to Dixieland music as a kid and it never left him. The upbeat music keeps him feeling young at heart, although he’s 89 years old.
“It’s entertaining,” Leer said about Dixieland music. “It’s foot-tapping. It’s happy and it’s got a bounce to it. That’s what I like.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT Downtown Dixieland Band in concert
WHEN 10 a.m., Saturday, June 7
WHERE Riverfront Farmers Market, 7 S. Walnut St., Milford
INFO Visit milfordcommunityband.org