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Flat Iron Jazz Band to kick off Music in the Park

Lacombe’s Flat Iron Jazz Band is the first group to perform for this summer’s Music in the Park series on June 5. The Lacombe Performing Arts Centre presents the series. (Photo submitted)

Kicking off this year’s Music in the Park summer series is none other than Lacombe’s own Flat Iron Jazz Band.

Performances, presented by the Lacombe Performing Arts Centre (LPAC), run on Wednesday evenings starting at 6:30 p.m. on the Lacombe Memorial Centre’s Echo Stage through to the end of August.

Shows will be moved to St. Andrew’s United Church in case of inclement weather.

As to the band, its beginnings stretch back to 2005, said Mim Kunz, the group’s pianist.

She pointed out that the Lacombe Lions Club’s encouragement and support helped launch the group, and today, trumpet player Gerald Ganson serves as the band’s director and has held that post since 2013.

“We have 17 players plus a singer — six saxophones, three trombones, four trumpets, and then four in our rhythm section including drums, bass, piano, and guitar,” explained Kunz, who has been with the band for 10 years.

“The band’s music style started primarily as swing jazz and gradually added in newer jazz music. Repertoire selections for bands are often limited because not all music is available to purchase.

“With the advent of a director who could arrange songs for us — Gerald — the band’s repertoire and genres became more varied. Several years ago, I heard a song on CKUA radio called Philly Dog and suggested it for the band. Gerald was able to arrange it and we performed it at Music in the Park in about 2019.

“Gerald is incredibly gifted. And he’s very humble.”

And speaking of clever arrangements, during their June 5 gig, the band will perform a set of classic Blues Brothers tunes.

“Many will recognize some of the pieces,” she said, referring to cuts like Mustang Sally, Soul Man and Flip, Flop, and Fly.

“We are also hoping for audience participation with that, as quite a few of those songs have a ‘singing back’ component to them,” she explained.

The guest vocalist for this part of the program will be Allen Rankin.

“We’ll also do some old-time swing songs, and those will be with our singer Joan Ree,” she said. “There will also be some Latin songs, so there will be a good variety.”

She encourages audience members to also get up and dance during the show.

“Most of what we do are good dance tunes,” adding there is ample room for folks to dance in front of the outdoor stage, and also in St. Andrew’s church for that matter, too.

“If it’s raining, folks should still come out to the church because the band sounds really good in there. And they leave a nice dance floor in the front as well.”

For Kunz, there is a wonderful sense of camaraderie that comes with performing with the Flat Iron Jazz Band, which includes her husband Ron.

“Jazz is some of the most difficult music to play and I enjoy it for the challenge. I have learned how to play a solo more confidently with band backup and even have made up a solo or two by myself,” she said.

It’s also a really fun thing to experience playing in a band as opposed to solo piano which I was trained in. Band music only comes together when each member contributes their own part.

“Probably the most fun for me is playing music that causes people to get up and dance! The energy passes up to the band and makes a more energetic performance. It’s great to be able to do something that spreads so much fun and happiness for people.”

Meanwhile, other artists to be featured this year include Randi Boulton (June 12), Strings Galore (June 19), and the Rojo’s (June 26). On July 1, celebrations for Canada Day will be held at Cranna Lake, and LPAC will be presenting entertainment featuring the band Juke.

This show starts at 9 p.m.

Off the Rails performs on July 3 back on the Echo Stage, followed by Blueprint (July 10), the Misery Mountain Boys (July 17), Memphis Mafia on July 24, and the Ultimate Berube Singalong on July 31.

August shows include Bobby Gosse on Aug. 7, Squidjigger on Aug. 14, the Heartbroke Heroes on Aug. 21, and wrapping up the season will be Taps on Aug. 28.

Mark Weber

About the Author: Mark Weber

I've been a part of the Black Press Media family for about a dozen years now, with stints at the Red Deer Express, the Stettler Independent, and now the Lacombe Express.
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