Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Band That's Worth Ducking Inn For

"Is this the best five bucks you've ever spent, or what?"

That was the question posed to me by the guy across the table nearly a year ago after my first time to hear The Original Texas Jazz Orchestra at the Duck Inn in Lake Dallas. They've played every month since then (minus a short break for the summer), and it's always been an enjoyable experience. The band, led by one of my former professors, Jim Riggs, is made up of ex-One O'Clock Lab Band members, UNT alumni and local Dallas-area jazz musicians (and some members fall into all three of those categories), and they play a lot of traditional big band charts (Basie, Thad, and so on) that are augmented by outstanding soloing all around.

One of the highlights of the TOTJO gigs has been the presence of Leon Breeden, the retired director who brought the One O'Clock Lab Band to prominence during his tenure at North Texas. He's a fine clarinetist, and he has sat in with the band every month since last fall. (Tonight was a special night for him, as he's celebrating his 86th birthday today. In addition to his usual stint with the band--this time, he played the same arrangement of "Willow Weep for Me" that he recorded with the One O'Clock on his farewell album with them, Lab '81--someone made a huge cake for him and proceeded to pass it out to everyone in attendance.) The presence of Breeden and the rest of the older guys, along with the current faculty, has made the first Sunday night of the month a mandatory hang for alumni and current students alike.

But the scenery is about to change; as I mentioned a while back, the restaurant is closing its doors soon. When the article came out in August, the closing date was going to be around the first of December, but since then, business has dropped off precipitously, so the last day is now October 31. (You'd think it would be the opposite--that more people would come in to get the famous catfish and hushpuppies one more time.) That means that TOTJO is going to be homeless until they can find a new venue in the area.

I hope the gig resumes soon; this band is too good to miss. And happy birthday, Mr. Breeden!

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