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Information about the Upcoming Concert featuring Rusty Mason and the Augusta Swing Ensemble

The Ways and Means Committee is delighted to announce that the Committee will end the year by presenting a spectacular concert of classic 1930's and 1940's swing music featuring the legendary musicians Rusty Mason and the Augusta Swing Ensemble at three o’cock in the afternoon of Sunday December 11, 2011. We all felt that we had to end the secular year with a flair, so what better way than with a concert/swing dance? As always, we like to feature the best, and this group is no exception! Rusty Mason, (husband of Mishkan Torah member Chana Mason) and the Augusta Swing Ensemble is sure to produce a sound reminiscent of the 30‘s and 40‘s, yet still fresh and original. This is a “blowing group,” meaning that the music is spontaneous and unwritten, but always first class. You will hear and dance to “straight ahead jazz,” the real jazz, music that is never played the same way twice, never scripted. Each member speaks the language of jazz and each is inherently aware of the subtle cues from one another, which direct the next phrase played. Each member is a consummate professional.

Rusty began “playing out” in the 30’s at age 13, listening to and learning from the records of the day, from his music teachers in the public school, but mostly from hearing the intriguing harmonies and melodies that he quite intuitively produced on the piano and horns. He was fortunate enough to live in the small, unique city of Winchester, VA, where he could be one of the bigger fish in a small pond. Ever fascinated with the entertainment industry, he spent Saturdays in the movie theater watching the westerns, as did many kids of the day. He graduated to carrying a heavy, four-sided placard, the walking advertisement for the current feature film. Later, he would erect billboards, clean the theater, and keep the coal furnace stoked. Never able to pass a piano without putting his hands on it, his musical talents became quite obvious, and was invited to join the band providing accompaniment for the Saturday “Amateur Shows,” playing both piano and trumpet. (Country music legend Patsy Cline was one of those featured at these shows in her hometown of Winchester.) He then joined local bands, breaking the color line, as he played with both black and white musicians, traveling the northeast corridor. He became part of the “second echelon” players, musicians who would accompany nationally-known talent as they performed in Winchester, such as Lionel Hampton, Betty Carter, and Bud Powell, to name a few. He was part of the Lucky Millender and Tiny Bradshaw groups, touring with them extensively. Today, his first love is the tenor sax, which allows him to express an emotional tone, which has taken a lifetime to develop.

Robert Redd, who began as a trumpet player at age 12, took up the piano at age 23, yet one would swear he’s been playing since birth. Both sweet and melodic, his fingers on the keys can move one in many ways. His family was very involved in the jazz scene, befriending many a talented musician, with whom they’d become close, including Dizzy Gillespie, a regular dinner guest when in town for a gig! Robert plays with many local groups, including brother Chuck Redd (vibes, drums) in the Redd Brothers who have become the “house band” at Blues Alley, (one of the few remaining original jazz and blues venues in D.C.), the Smithsonian Jazzworks Orchestra, the Brooks Tegler Band, was part of Keter Betts group, works with the Wolf Trap educational programs, and has played at the White house for the Obamas.

On bass we have John Previti, who started his musical studies with the oboe while in grade school, later becoming smitten with the bass. You can hear him at many a venue in the tri-state area, as well as on numerous recordings with a variety of artists. John is a winner of a Grammie award, one of the most prestigious honors in the musical arena.  He has played with Emmylou Harris, Doc Cheatham, Danny Gatton, Paul Simon, Charlie Byrd, Herb Ellis, Les Paul, Rick Whitehead, and countless others. He also leads a Mingus tribute band at a weekly gig in Arlington, VA. Strong, yet at times understated, he provides a sound foundation for the entire band, anchoring the rhythm section. If all of that wasn't enough, John is an all-around good guy.

Our special guest will be John Jensen, a very talented trombone player who will round out the group. A skilled arranger, interpreter and recording artist, John has recently been the music director for the Washington production of Oklahoma. He has played at the Corcoran, the Kennedy Center, the White House and countless other venues with such greats as singers Joe Williams and Dianne Schurr, and instrumentalists Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Hinton, and Urbie Green. He is one of the gifted musicians to have been part of the Navy jazz ensemble, the Commodores.

These four musicians teach at the Augusta Heritage Festival’s “Swing Week” in Elkins, West Virginia, which affords the attendees to experience them both individually and collectively. The interplay between them is truly magical. Come and hear and dance to the sound of this straight ahead jazz ensemble, a sound that is so much bigger than the sum of its parts.

Tickets are $18 in advance or $20 at the door. If you can’t make it but want to be a part of the day, become a “Friend of the Ensemble” by making a donation. Even better, buy a ticket AND be a “Friend”. All the artists will have CDs that you can purchase at Intermission—just in time for holiday gifts.

This is going to be a once in a lifetime occasion—not to be missed. We haven’t given you much time to think about it, so just go ahead and make your reservation right now.