Jimmy and Swingers come out to Sandwich
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media January 31, 2013 9:42AM
Jimmy and the Swingers will be at Sandwich Opera House on Feb. 2.
‘Jimmy and the Swingers’
♦ Feb. 2
♦ Sandwich Opera House
♦ Tickets, $15-$25
♦ (815) 786-2555
Updated: February 4, 2013 10:50AM
Jazz aficionados won’t want to miss a rare performance by some of the Midwest’s best acoustic string jazz musicians.
Jimmy and the Swingers featuring Jim Kanas perform at 8 p.m. Feb. 2 at the Sandwich Opera House in Sandwich.
Included in the lineup is a virtual all-star ballot of jazz giants: violinist Randy Sabien, who started the Berklee School of Music’s string program at age 21; mandolinist Don Stiernberg, who was a protégé of Jethro Burns at age 19; and acoustic bassist Larry Gray, who performs regularly with Ramsey Lewis and Larry Correll.
Together, they will present an evening of jazz, bluegrass, swing, folk music and blues.
Jim Kanas said the audience can expect a few different formats during the evening. He’ll play whatever instrument strikes his fancy at the moment, making the guitar his accompany instrument rather than his main instrument. You’ll hear a variety of styles ranging from folk to singer-songwriter, blues, bluegrass and contemporary jazz, he said.
“It will tend to be more jazz and swing and instrumental-oriented, although not completely because I’m going to sing a lot too,” he said. “I’m going to bring my Native American flute and you will hear a nice collage … with percussion, bass and mandolin.”
Each member of the group can swing hard, he said.
“They’re coming from the Chicago jazz cloth, and they can really play jazz,” he said. “They’re jazz musicians, but everyone in the band can play folk music and other styles too. The thing that will make this so fun is having such a high-quality opening with swing and jazz and then morphing into other American roots style (music), like bluegrass, folk and blues.”
Included in the band’s repertoire are swinging renditions of “All of Me,” “Straighten Up and Fly Right” and a funky blues version of “Summertime,” he said. You’ll also hear a unique version of Hank Williams’ classic “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” plus a Latin-infused cover of the old Beatles’ tune “I Will.”
“We’ll probably end the same way we started — playing jazz,” he said. “You’re going to hear some Thelonius Monk — ‘Well You Needn’t.’ I might do a Walt Disney tune called ‘Everybody Wants to be a Cat.’ It’s a swing tune that sounds like ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing’ by Duke Ellington.”
Jimmy and the Swingers came together in 1996, when he decided to go into the studio with the best players he knew and make a CD.
“It started out as an album project, not a band. I’m a little self-conscious about the name Jimmy and the Swingers, because it was just a fun thing to name an album. Now it’s become the silly name for a band that doesn’t really play that much,” he said. “For this (Sandwich) gig, everyone was available and wanted to do it. I couldn’t believe it.”
By day, Kanas works as an elementary school music teacher in DeKalb.
“This works well because it feeds the scope of my interests — from world music to jazz to classical to everything else,” he said. “There are so many opportunities to create … and I’m still getting my practice in.”
Additionally, he performs and records as a soloist, with the Jim Kanas Trio and with the Jim Kanas Jazz Quartet. He is also in a PBS feature (WTTW-Channel 11), “Arts Across Illinois.”