This evening, the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra marks its first birthday by dishing out free cake and champagne, and by doing what it’s best at: swingin’.
Over the past year, certain tunes have emerged as band favorites – Duke Ellington’s “In a Mellotone,” for one – but the music is always varied and thrillingly unpredictable. The music ranges from Basie tunes to original compositions by the group’s members, and the band draws arrangements from the likes of Maria Schneider, Bob Brookmeyer and even other musicians who are in the audience that night and want to throw a chart the BCJO’s way.
All of April has been a celebration of sorts for the orchestra, and it began with a night of playing tunes and arrangements by the Israel-via-New York City saxophonist and bandleader Eyal Vilner. Then last Monday, the band celebrated the run-up to its anniversary with a full-fledged live recording (employing more advanced equipment than co-leader Brad Linde has been using here and there to record BCJO performances, as on the group’s website). That recording may be released as an album in the future, but plans are still being worked out.
Then on the heels of this week’s official birthday celebration comes an unorthodox show for the orchestra: On Apr. 29, the big band will accompany local progressive hip-hop artist Christylez Bacon at the Poetry Out Loud competition at the Lincoln Theater, a couple blocks down from Bohemian.
“How the band has come together in a year, and the way we blend – for example, as a sax section – I couldn’t have imagined how it was going to feel, and it’s incredible,” said tenor saxophonist Charles Phaeuf. “It just exceeds my expectations every time.”
Phaneuf said that the range of musical and personal history in the band gives its sound a breadth of sensibilities. “It seems like everybody has a really interesting side project … and everyone has a different way of paying the bills,” said Phaneuf, who is a managing director at Joe’s Movement Emporium, a community performing arts space. “That’s part of what makes it such an interesting group of people.”