Cornet | Vocals | Leader 




MIKE BEZIN started the West End Jazz Band in 1975 because he liked the music, and the only way to play it was to have enough musicians. He wasn’t content to play the warhorse Dixie tunes. He wanted to do some of the other, lesser-known but great tunes from the early era of jazz. His style leaned towards the likes of Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, King Oliver and hundreds of lesser-known legends of classic jazz from the 1920s and 1930s. The WEJB developed into a trad-based group that focused on playing a repertoire of about 500 tunes. Then the idea surfaced to try a new type of music from that same era that was even less common today, the “hot dance” style. This change for the group opened up a whole new list of tunes to choose from. Mike rearranges original versions of hot dance recordings to fit the six-piece makeup of the WEJB. Once the band fine-tuned this style, Mike found a new spark in his music and has stuck with it.

Born in Brookfield, Illinois, Mike has played with polka bands; traditional German bands; concert symphonies; jingle bands; big bands, both jazz and dance, but none of these various styles compare to his interest in what the WEJB is doing today. He is also in demand on tuba and trombone, and his washboard playing should not be scoffed at. Leah says if he ever decides to take up the banjo, she is in big trouble.

Mike recalls their biggest event was the Grand Reopening of the Blue Lantern in Hudson Lake, Indiana, in the spring of 2002. A total sellout, it was a real thrill personally for Mike to be a part of the rebirth of the place where Bix Beiderbecke played in the summer of 1926. Because of the huge success of this event, several WEJB concerts have followed at the Blue Lantern, some of which have included a private chartered train to the event, music on the train and all. The train connection fits right in with Mike’s day job as an electrician for the Metra Commuter Railroad and his hobby of railroadiana.

Being the leader is way different from being a sideman. The job details are endless, but Mike seems to have it all under control. Keeping the dates in order; keeping all band members informed of details; dealing with clients; setting up sound systems; arranging and copying the music; cracking the whip, hauling all that stuff around to the jobs; overseeing recording sessions AND playing the horn is a big job and the band cannot exist without someone to do this part of it. He’s the lifeblood of the West End Jazz Band.