Ready for a little traditional jazz music from New Orleans?
Next week’s installment of the Excellence in the Community concert series will feature the Utah County-based band Louisiana 801, performing Dixieland jazz in a free performance.
The event begins at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4, in Peery’s Egyptian Theater, in Ogden.
“We play old music, but we put our own modern spin on it,” said band member Jory Woodis. “But we also stay true to its roots. It really is a fun concert, and there’s something for everyone.”
The seven-piece band features a front line of Woodis on woodwinds, Austie Robinson on trumpet, and Nate Campbell on trombone, with a rhythm section consisting of Gavin Ryan (drums), Norbert Sarkis (bass), Nathan Royal (guitar) and Dan Waldis (piano).
Woodis calls the band both tight and creative. Tight, because of the virtuosic musicianship among its members, and creative because the instrumentalists are continually changing things on the fly.
“What you hear from the front line is collective improvisation,” said Woodis, who lives in Orem. “All the horn players are improvising on the spot, but they weave it together in a cohesive, tight, busy sound.”
As a result of that improvisation, Woodis says Louisiana 801 never plays the same song the same way twice.
“It’s different literally every time you hear it, because we’re making it up as we go,” he said. “We are in a constant state of surprising one another — both on and off the stage.”
Woodis said most of the bandmates are good friends; he and fellow founding member Robinson are third cousins who lived together while studying at Brigham Young University.
“We work well together musically,” Woodis said.
Formerly called The Salt Lake City 7, the original members of Louisiana 801 met in the Jazz Legacy Dixieland Band at BYU, under the direction of music professor Steve Call, considered “the” expert on New Orleans jazz in the state of Utah, according to Woodis.
In their final year at BYU, members of the band spent a week learning and playing jazz in New Orleans, where they worked to create a documentary.
“We all became passionate about the music, and we recorded and self-funded an album,” Woodis said.
Upon returning to Utah, with most of the members of The Salt Lake City 7 scattering around the country after graduation, they recorded a second album as a sort of farewell.
Eventually, Woodis and Robinson — who both stayed in Utah — decided they wanted to keep playing Dixieland jazz. So they sought out like-minded musicians and two years ago formed Louisiana 801.
Woodis credits his grandfather with his love of jazz music.
“My grandpa was a wonderful jazz pianist,” says Woodis, who grew up in a tiny town in northern Wyoming. “He used to sit and play for me in the style of stride piano — he’d play the theme songs to the cartoons I was watching, and I’d sit on the piano bench and sing along with him.”
Woodis says his grandfather would play stride piano versions of songs from cartoons like “Pinocchio” and “Winnie the Pooh” as well as “The Mickey Mouse Club.” He’d also play jazz records for his grandson — albums from Louis Armstrong and the like.
“I used to listen to the clarinets playing blisteringly fast lines on those records, and I knew I’d do that one day,” Woodis said. “I did it all the way back from when I was 4 — that’s what ignited my passion for this music.”
Being from a small town of 500 people, Woodis said it’s difficult to escape such places.
“We were a poor family, and I knew if I wanted a college education I would need to be really good at something,” he said.
That something became music.
“I liked music, and I worked hard at it,” Woodis said. “That was my ticket for getting out of that small town and getting out into the world.”
Woodis was quick to sing the praises of the Excellence in the Community concert series, which brings free concerts by Utah’s professional musicians to venues along the Wasatch Front.
“I want to add that the concert is free to the public, but a more accurate way to look at it is that the tickets have been prepaid by Excellence in the Community and their sponsors,” he said. “We wouldn’t be doing this free concert if it wasn’t for them.”
Monday’s concert of New Orleans jazz will feature special guest Daniel Jonas on trumpet. The assistant director of bands at Weber State University, Jonas will be featured — along with Louisiana 801’s Robinson — on a dueling trumpet suite of music that recalls jazz greats Joe “King” Oliver and Louis Armstrong.
Jonas will also be featured on a suite of music from Red Nichols, an Ogden native who was one of the early pioneers of jazz.
“He grew up in Ogden, ran away from home and took the train to Chicago — where he met up with Louis Armstrong,” Woodis said. “He made it big and went to New York.
Woodis likes the idea of having one Ogden trumpeter (Jonas) offer a musical salute to another Ogden trumpeter (Nichols).
“When we first booked the show, we thought it would be cool to do a tribute to an Ogden trumpet player, featuring another Ogden trumpet player,” Woodis said.
Woodis promises “something for everyone” in this evening of upbeat, soul-lifting jazz.
“We are taking you to church in the Southland,” he said.