Barely into their teens, clean-faced and wide-eyed, the musicians tentatively strode onstage. The lights went up and the audience cheered as the young players tore into a ferocious set of smooth jazz.
And so it went down, at the wild hour of noon on a Saturday, in a convention room at the Davenport RiverCenter. The Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Youth Jazz Band, comprised of adolescent musicians from throughout the Quad-City area, entertained about 100 fans as part of the 43rd annual festival named for Davenport’s music legend.
“It was a fabulous show,” Patricia Bare of Walcott said. “These young people’s enthusiasm for jazz and the dedication it takes to play it so well is impressive.”
“I thought it was great,” said Don Barr of St. Joseph, Mo. “I used to play this kind of music when I was younger, although it was quite a bit more popular with young people back then. I thought they did a terrific job.”
That said, when most people think of teens playing in a band, the sounds of rock, rap or electronic dance music come to mind. This show was all about the brass, not the bass. What is it about the eternal sound of the Prohibition Age that charms a group born after the death of rapper Biggie Smalls, let alone Bix?
“The music just gets you really into the rhythm,” said Jarred McClendon, 15, of Rock Island, who has been playing with the band for three years. “I really enjoy how there are so many different types of beats and music. It’s not just one basic thing over and over.”
“My sister was in youth band before, and I didn’t like it then, but once I started playing it, I really liked it,” said Stephanie Hesse, 18, of Bettendorf. “It’s a lot of fun, and the crowds are so grateful we’re keeping the music alive. Plus you get to hang out with a lot of great musicians.”
“My grandfather used to listen to it all the time, so I grew up hearing it, and I really like playing it,” said Katy Fier, 17, of Clinton. “I like it better than today’s music because it’s so heartfelt. It has more heart and soul.”
Even more than Justin Bieber?
“Yes, oh yeah,” Fier said, laughing.