Fort Wayne Big Band Jazz Fest 2010
Saturday, June 26th
Allen County Public Library
Big Band’s are Back
Director with storied career launches big bnad jazz festival
Steve Penhollow | The Journal Gazette
Mark Van Cleave’s dad was a school band director who sent mixed signals to his son about music.
He thought that learning to play an instrument could benefit Van Cleave in numerous ways. But he changed his tune when Van Cleave indicated that he wanted to make a profession out of music. “The last thing a father wants his kid to be is a musician,” Van Cleave says, laughing. “It’s sort of like, ‘Didn’t you learn enough from me to be smarter than this?’ ”
If Van Cleave has any regrets, he’s keeping them close to the vest as he prepares his first big band music festival. It happens from noon to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, inside and outside the Allen County Public Library.
Van Cleave’s Jazz Orchestra will perform with the IPFW Jazz Ensemble, Don Pearson’s Conglomernotes Big Band, the Blue River Big Band and an all-star assortment of many bands. Van Cleave has done a lot of interesting things with his career since he briefly matriculated at Indiana University in the late 1970s.
(He says the reason he kept leaving school was because he’d get calls from bookers and promoters who’d say “I’ll pay you more for a week than you paid for the whole semester.”)
Van Cleave assembled and directed bands that performed live for circuses and ice shows, he toured with Mel Torme, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra Jr., The Four Tops, The Temptations, and he played lead and solo trumpet for 6 years with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.
He recalls a presentation that the orchestra had to make to Congress to secure funding. Conductor Gunther Schuller prefaced a song with a long lecture about its historical and musical significance.
An 80-year-old Brit Woodman (former lead trombone on the Duke Ellington band who had recorded the tune we were about to play in 1946) leaned in to Van Cleave and said, “We weren’t trying to make art. We were trying to hook-up. This is DANCE music!”
Van Cleave says big band music is a uniquely American art form, but it will die if it gets stored on a shelf. “The music is now revered as high art, but it was the pop music of its day,” he says.
“You gotta have fun playing it if anybody’s gonna have fun listening to it.”
All-Star Festival Big Band
IPFW Jazz Ensemble