The group released a CD in September called The Rooters Remember the Big Band Era.
Rotarian musicians in Sacramento, California, USA, have found a way to keep big-band tunes alive – and make money for service projects and The Rotary Foundation.
The five Rotarians form part of the nine-member Sacramento Rotary Rooters swing band, which released a CD in September called The Rooters Remember the Big Band Era. After the band pays back the $15,000 loan it received from the Rotary Club of Sacramento to produce and market the CD, all profits will benefit the Foundation and the Sacramento club's local projects.
The band members perform about 60 times a year at musical events, Rotary club and district conferences, and senior residences. Gigs generally earn $100 to $200, with proceeds split between the Foundation and community service activities.
"You'll find us wherever folks like to swing," says bandleader Evans "Red" Clark, a member of the Sacramento club.
A highly regarded drummer throughout the 1940s, Clark, 86, crossed the nation with many of the era's top performers, including Tex Beneke, Del Courtney, Helen Forrest, Mel Tormé, and Joe Venuti. In 1951, he formed the Red Clark Orchestra, which played in Northern California for years.
"There were a lot of hot musicians, but demand was so great, anyone willing to travel worked six or seven nights a week," Clark says. "There aren't many of us left."
One of his best memories is of jamming with Duke Ellington in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "I had heard that he was going to be performing in town that night and went to the show," he says. "The group's drummer wanted to take a break, and they asked if anyone in the audience could play drums. I yelled out that I did, and they invited me up on stage, where I played a couple of songs with them."
Clark still has plenty of chops today, now playing saxophone with the Rooters, which includes members of the Rotary clubs of Sacramento and West Sacramento. Formed more than 20 years ago, today's band features a five-piece sax section and a trombonist, pianist, bass player, and drummer.
"We were originally a traditional jazz band, but we’ve evolved through changing combinations of members and instruments," says pianist Paul Stone, 82, the original bandleader and a member of the Sacramento club. "Red has led the band the past decade, and we’re now 100 percent swing. Our current members are the most talented we’ve assembled, including several swing-era professionals."
Songs on the Rooters' CD include "September in the Rain," and "Georgia on My Mind," in which Tom Wallace, 72, of the West Sacramento club, blows a soulful alto sax.
Accompanying the 18-track CD is a 10-minute DVD that describes the swing era and shows the band recording in a studio. The set is available for $22, including shipping, from Dig Music.
To order, call 916-442-5344 or visit www.digmusic.com.