WAXAHACHIE — An evening filled with dining, big band and jazz music, and swing dancing was the entertainment for over 225 guests during the 12th annual Jazz Cafe hosted by the award-winning Waxahachie High School Jazz Orchestra at the Waxahachie Civic Center on Saturday, Feb. 4.
The evening’s menu included a catered dinner by My Sisters Affair and music provided by the WHS Jazz Orchestra with special guest entertainers performing solos alongside. The music began with Waxahachie alumni trumpeter, James Davis, and saxophonist Keith Davis. Two other musicians and the band’s director, Rich Armstrong, on the keyboard then joined the two-guest instrumentalists for music guests could listen to while they dined.
Since graduating from Waxahachie, James Davis went on to University of North Texas to obtain a Bachelor of Music and a Masters of Music in trumpet performance. The Waxahachie grad has played with the UNT One O’clock Lab band and the university’s wind ensemble, while professionally performing with the Glen Miller Orchestra. He also continues to play while on the faculty of Trinton College in Illinois.
After his Waxahachie graduation, James Davis graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a Bachelor of Music Education and a Masters in Clarinet Performance. During his time since high school, he has played with the UTA and TCU Jazz bands. Davis also continues his professional career by playing at several venues in the Metroplex and is a member of the band staff at Midlothian Heritage High School.
The music continued with the Jazz Orchestra taking the stage with the guest artists, as they offered up variations of swing and big band songs that included many Glen Miller, Burt Bacharach and other favorites of the era, as well as modern jazz offerings.
Songs like "In the Mood," "Little Brown Jug," and "Pennsylvania Six-5000" provided plenty of music that filled the dance floor with guests of all ages.
During many of the songs, vocalists and recent Waxahachie graduates, Micaiah Armstrong and Tracy Jordan, joined the orchestra by adding many favorite lyrics.
“It has been a great night to share this music from our band with the community. It has also been great having my daughter on stage and alumni to sing with us,” Armstrong said.
This was the first year at the Jazz Care for Jordan, but he has more than thirty years in regional and national tours. He has performed in many stage productions including 42nd Street, Sugar Babies with Mickey Rooney and Juliet Prowse and with touring company productions of "Jesus Christ Super Star" and "Fiddler On the Roof."
“I’m excited about putting the spotlight on promising new talent in Dallas. There is a wealth of it on this stage here tonight,” Jordan said.
This is the twelfth year for the Jazz Café. “This annual event is a chance to feature the 21 members of the group as well as being a fundraiser for the band boosters to help funding assistance to the district's band programs,” Julie Merritt said. “These concerts did not begin as a fundraiser, however, they began as a way to get jazz music out to the community through these very talented musicians. Along the way, it evolved into a fundraiser."
During the evening, additional band members served refreshments and deserts, as well as cleared tables for the dinner’s next course.
Merritt noted that the production planning for the cafe begins almost a year before the next event.
“It takes a lot of effort and time for the booster clubs board members and volunteers to arrange for the gifts and donations that are donated by local merchants and services,” Merritt said. “We also have make decisions on the food and decorations as well as setting up the community center."
There were close to 90 items in the silent auction that included artworks for area museums, sports event tickets, apparel, home decorations, and baskets filled with "Hachie Watching" items.
As only he could do, Armstrong led the group through several songs by the composer Dave Brubeck toward the close of the evening.
“While these aren’t songs to dance by, these were great charts,” said Armstrong as he then again started the band to play Brubeck’s song “Take 5.”