Otsego Jazz Ensemble
Time & Location
About the Event
TICKETS are $15 General/$10 Student.
Concerts and events made possible, in part, with support from the Wells Philanthropic Services provided by grants from the John, Anna, and Martha Jane Fields Memorial Trust Foundation and the Florence V. Carroll Charitable Trust, The Esther and George Jaruga Charitable Foundation, the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County's ArtsEverywhere initiative, and the Arts Project Support Grant and Arts Recovery Grant through the Indiana Arts Commission.
“Not only do we play a wide range of music, we have a wide range of musicians, from 17 to 93 in age”, said Culver. “The music is our common demonator, whether it’s with band members, or our audience. We can’t wait to play Merrimans.”
The Otsego Jazz Ensemble, affectionately known by its fans as “OJE”, has been around 35 years, playing classic big band standards and a wide variety of swing, jazz, Latin and rock. Now that live music is back, the band is thrilled to make the trip to South Bend on December 10th, for a concert at Merriman’s Playhouse.
The 17-piece jazz band, based in Otsego, Michigan, plays music from the big band era including Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington and Count Basie as well as more modern big band jazz arrangements that cover many styles of music like rock, pop and jazz.
The Band is led by Creative Director Tim Culver, who has co-led the Kalamazoo Big Band for four decades, and plays trumpet in the Gull Lake Jazz Orchestra and tenor sax in the Lew Boyd Band. “Everybody in OJE takes the music seriously and we all really give it a lot of time and effort. As audiences change, it’s a challenge for the band to change and adapt,” said Culver. “We’re very versatile. We play all dance styles for the ballroom dancers. We’re always adding rock and pop arrangements. The music of groups like Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears, Pat Metheny and Tower of Power are all a great fit for a band like ours. We love to put a lot of variety in our concerts.”
One of the OJE’s featured soloists is lead alto saxophonist Gary McCourry. Gary retired after 23 years with the Premier Military Band at West Point, including the Jazz Knights. After the military, Gary relocated back to West Michigan where he plays with the Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra, Gull Lake Jazz Orchestra, Truth-In-Jazz Orchestra, Beltline Big Band, Kalamazoo Big Band and Rhythm Section Jazz Band. Gary plays all the saxophones, flute, piccolo, clarinet, and bass clarinet. He also leads the Beer City Saxes. McCourry will be featured on several numbers, including Pat Metheny’s “James.”
Who we are: The Otsego Jazz Ensemble is a 17-piece big band composed of jazz and big band musicians from across southwest Michigan. Along with regular subs who rehearse and perform with us, we provide opportunities for about 25 southwest Michigan jazz musicians to stay in the groove. OJE has also hosted several note-worthy guest artists, including Edye Evans-Hyde, Wayne Powers, Derek Brown, Early Braggs, Lana Hoffman, and Robin Connell. The one thing we all share is our love for and commitment to playing jazz and big band music, from ballads to swing to samba ... and beyond. The OJE is led by Tim Culver, trumpeter and saxophonist who has co-led the Kalamazoo Big Band for more than 35 years, and plays in the Gull Lake Jazz Orchestra and the Lew Boyd Band. Culver joined the OJE trumpet section about 17 years ago.
What we play: Our book contains classic big band charts, with tunes and arrangements from Stan Kenton, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Sammy Nestico, and Glenn Miller and recent arrangements by Gordon Goodwin, Bob Curnow, Bob Florence, and Bob Mintzer. And we love to pull out jazzy Christmas arrangements during the holiday season.
Where we came from: The OJE began in 1986, when several friends and friends of friends began reading big band charts together on Thursday nights. As legend has it, it was "better than bowling!" We are a farmer and a microbiologist. We have business owners and band directors, college students and jazz music instructors. Some of us played in high school, some played in college, some in the military, and a few of us were lucky to make music our career. Several current members played with southwest Michigan big bands, such as the Kalamazoo Big Band, and the Bobby Davidson Orchestra, before coming to the OJE. A handful of our players share their talents with other bands in the area, including the Gull Lake Jazz Orchestra, the Lew Boyd Band, and the Lake Effect Jazz Big Band.
Where we play: It wasn't long after we started rehearsing, first in the Otsego Middle School band room, and later at the Otsego Elks Lodge, that we began receiving requests to perform. At first, we played for high school band fund-raisers, and local community summer music concerts. We played the Goose Festival in Fennville. There was the Kalamazoo Wine and Harvest Festival, and the Paw Paw Blues Festival. Then, there were wedding receptions, Christmas and New Year parties, and at least one Bar Mitzvah! We’ve played Western Michigan University's Senior Prom for many years, a great event that brings college students and senior citizens together for an annual swing dance. But, probably our favorite performances have been at jazz and big band music festivals, including the Thornapple Jazz Festival, the WMU Big Band Jazz Fest and the South Haven Jazz Festival!
List of musicians:
Dale Jansen – Lead Trumpet
Tim Culver – Trumpet
Jeff Gregory- Trumpet
Bob Simonds - Trumpet
Joseph Stoltz- Lead Trombone
Jim Gysel- Trombone
Harry Boesch - Trombone
Brian Nichols - Bass Trombone
Gary McCourry – Lead Alto Sax
David Hubbard – Alto Sax
Scott Robbins – Lead Tenor Sax
Dale Gregg – Tenor Sax
Gail Perkins – Baritone Sax
Dave Forsman - Piano
Bob Murray - Bass
Jeff Bourdo - Drums