Washington Big Band Theory Celebrates Drummer Kessell Tuesday | KCII Radio


About twenty musicians from Washington and elsewhere will take the stage Tuesday for a show revolving around one of the founding members of the group.

Entitled “The Big Band Theory XIV”, this show will feature the great collective of musicians playing an ensemble of unrehearsed and on-site big band music. Several special guests will attend to celebrate drummer John Kessell, who grew up in Washington and was notably part of the 1972 high school jazz group that performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. He spent the rest of his life performing in ensembles, including “This Side Up” which performed original compositions in the 1970s, and with several groups during his time in Baltimore.

The group’s first Washington gig was in November 2012, and as Kessell has battled stage four esophageal cancer in recent years, co-founder and guitarist Randy Swift said the group was eager to organize to again a concert: “Everyone loves to play with John. He is very modest but he is an exceptional musician. Not just as a drummer but as a musician and uplifts everyone around him. So I talked to everyone in the group and without exception they all wanted to get together as soon as we could make it work, at least one last time.

Kessell says it’s a huge honor for the band to come together on his behalf: “I can’t wait. The energy you get from playing is like the first take in a recording session. Each song in the concert will be a first take for us. There’s all kinds of extra energy going into that first take because you want to nail it down. You want to do it right and everyone comes together as a team. All of a sudden, you are in the moment and in the experience of it. There is nothing like it.

As always for the group, no entry is charged to the show, but since Kessell is immunocompromised, they ask all participants to wear a face mask. The music begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the high school’s Washington Area Performing Arts and Events Center.


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