During the twenties and thirties, America’s music came of age in dance and jazz. Dances like The Black Bottom, The Shimmy and The Charleston seemed somewhat uncivilized and, therefore, were desirable to the young. Yet it was also an era of sweet romance, which is reflected in melodies like "Dream Kisses," "A Precious Little Thing Called Love," and "Beloved."
The West End Jazz Band has recreated the classic music that typifies the twenties and thirties using original arrangements and instrumentation that is true to the style of the era. The band was organized by Mike Bezin, who had a great love for early jazz and wanted to provide more than the typical traditional tunes played by other jazz bands. The repertoire of West End consists of a broad representation of the music of this golden age, hot and sweet dance and jazz. Featured are the pure jazz numbers, the nonsense songs, the up-tempo tunes and the beautiful ballads. This was the type of music for dancing and for those zany times when youth ran wild and made whoopee; songs such as "Hop Off," "Stockholm Stomp," and "The Charleston;" and beautiful ballads like "Whose Honey Are You" and "Stardust." The band's book is full of great standards, obscure songs, as well as a number of straight dance medleys and waltzes that reflect the romantic and sweet side of that era.
West End has been invited to some of the most prestigious jazz festivals in the country, played concerts throughout the United States and has also toured Europe twice, which included a week-long engagement at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Nice, France. For years, the band made an annual train trek with private cars to the Blue Lantern, an historic dance hall on Hudson Lake, in Indiana, where Bix Beiderbecke played for a summer engagement in 1926. The band has recorded nine CDs. They continue to play festivals, concerts, clubs, private parties, and anywhere there is an audience that appreciates this fun-to-listen-to, fun-to-dance-to, and historically important music.
Originally, most of the members of West End were from the west side of the Chicago area, from which the band takes its name. We now include the best musicians in the country for this genre no matter where they are from. Mike Bezin is the founder and original leader, plays cornet or drums, and writes the band's all-original arrangements. Leah LaBrea, "The Windy City Songbird," sings, plays banjo and guitar. The world-famous multi-instrumentalist and all around nice guy Andy Schumm typically sits in the cornet chair, but on occasion, will take over the alto sax and clarinet chair. He's also played drums and bass sax with the band. The tuba chair is owned by Mike Walbridge but Dave Bock takes over when Mike is not there. Frank Gualtieri is the current leader and band manager, and plays trombone. Oher extraordinary musicians you may find in the band on a given date may include Eric Schneider on clarinet and sax, Josh Duffee on drums, Art Davis on trumpet or Mike Albiniak on drums.
Come enjoy the nostalgic and danceable music of The West End Jazz Band.